Handel's Messiah unearths real find

Handel's Messiah, Eye Parish Church, The Eye Bach Choir and Orchestra, Saturday November 24All great music needs an airing from time to time, and who better to do it than the resurgent Eye Bach Choir?Playing to a full house, Leslie Olive directed from the harpsichord though ensemble improved when he stood to conduct the choir.

Handel's Messiah, Eye Parish Church, The Eye Bach Choir and Orchestra, Saturday November 24

All great music needs an airing from time to time, and who better to do it than the resurgent Eye Bach Choir?

Playing to a full house, Leslie Olive directed from the harpsichord though ensemble improved when he stood to conduct the choir. The Overture was woolly, the following allegro crisper. Brisk tempi marked the whole performance as the orchestra gained confidence, though the lovely “Pastoral Symphony” was lacklustre.

Tenor soloist Tom Raskin was a real find with an easy, natural sound. “Thy rebuke” was a real tear-jerker! Mark Oldfield was a rather lightweight Word of God, but responsible for one of the evening's highlights partnered by the flawless trumpet playing of Ian Abbott in “The trumpet shall sound”. Soprano Charlotte Newstead was strong and imposed her own variations of tempo in “Rejoice greatly”, but she threw the orchestra into some disarray by not delivering the expected piu mosso in the middle of “I know that my redeemer”. Contralto Carol Rowlands was clearly unhappy with some tempi, wanting more space to wring drama from each phrase and rendering “O thou that tellest” rather dismal until the choir entered, their dancing copies showing that 6/8 time can be jolly after all.


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In works like this the limelight is often taken by the soloists, the choir a mere adjunct whose main function is to give the soloists a bit of a sit down. But this evening belonged to the Eye Bach Choir, whose light touch and fresh tone should be the envy of many younger choirs. Balance is excellent. Superb articulation, diction and accuracy are maintained even in the loudest sections. There were many moments of great beauty and choral virtuosity - the instant when the sweet, high trumpets joined in “Glory to God” was pure joy.

There is a ridiculous tradition that the audience should stand for the Hallelujah Chorus. Luckily the choir didn't know the other tradition - that this should be performed at the top of one's voice, with neither sense nor subtlety! Instead, they sung with delicate intelligence: hackneyed this old war-horse was definitely NOT.

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In only a year or so the Eye Bach Choir have transformed themselves from a good amateur choral society into something much more special: a technically-accomplished choir, alert and highly committed, a delight to listen to.

They will be a pleasure to watch, too, when the gentlemen are persuaded to ditch the scruffy polo-necks.

AE Hayward

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