Concert Review: Handel’s Messiah, St Paul’s Church, Chichester

Fernhurst Choral Society and Fernhurst Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Tim Ravalde.

Soloists: Margaret Ravalde – Soprano; Christopher Pilgrim – Alto; Pablo Strong – Tenor; Edmund Saddington - Bass. In support of Chestnut Tree House Children’s hospice care

Music! the greatest good that mortals know, And all of heaven we have below. So wrote Joseph Addison (1672–1719) in ‘A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day.’ There was certainly much that was very good about the performance of Messiah under review, and parts that were indeed heavenly.

Much credit must go to Tim Ravalde (Assistant Organist of Chichester Cathedral), who directed at times from the harpsichord keyboard and at times from the rostrum. In addition to his consummate instrumental ability, his interpretation of this familiar work was, to me, spot on, and brought a freshness and immediacy to the work which is all too often lacking. I’m a bit of a Baroque fan, and loved the brisk pace and carefully-studied dynamics. The orchestra, too, was just right; having only a couple of musicians per section meant that the textures and timbres of the instruments were heard clearly, which added to the richness of the well-balanced overall sound.

The professional soloists must share the credit; their engagement with both the work and the packed audience added to the life and vitality of the performance. The alto, Christopher Pilgrim, was particularly memorable.

True, there were a few problems; this is, after all, an amateur ensemble. The authentic pace proved too much for some of the men at times, and there were a few missed cues – more diligence in looking at the conductor would no doubt help with this. However, the sheer transcendence of some moments, notably the final Amen, more than made up for the glitches, and the overall experience was truly uplifting.

Addison – and Handel himself – would surely have smiled with satisfaction.

Nick Haigh

The concert raised about £3500 for Chestnut Tree House.

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