Coming into January 2019, we hadn’t sung Messiah for a few years. This performance was always going to be a bit special.
The Durham Choral Society concert opened the Durham Vocal Festival, who helped us to secure The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. This is a small orchestra that plays music on instruments (or replicas) from the time the music was written rather than modern versions, which gives a very distinctive sound. More details on the instruments and differences to the modern versions can be found on their excellent YouTube channel.
First performed in Dublin in 1742, it's success was largely due to the success of proceeds being donated to various Dublin charitable institutions. This pattern was later repeated in London with Handel's association with the Foundling Hospital.
Messiah is one of the staples of the choral repertoire and everyone recognises something from it, even if they can’t name it. Everyone also has their favourite movement. As a singer, my favourite is the Amen Chorus, the finale to the work. We are always tired at the end of such a long concert but the Amen Chorus, for me, is something to look forward to.
Outside Durham, Messiah is performed every year by Huddersfield Choral Society and in the Royal Albert Hall. An organisation called The Really Big Chorus hires the venue where singers gather to perform Messiah “from scratch” so there is no rehearsal. We arrive at 6.30, sing at 7.00 with usually over 2000 singers from around the world.