Darlington & Stockton Times
This review appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on
1 December 2006.   It is reproduced here with permission.
Copyright   Newsquest (North East) Ltd, 2006

Messiah

Stockton Tabernacle

When is a crisis - four hours before baton-lift, a key soloist quits the dress rehearsal nursing a throat infection - not a crisis?

Answer: when your conductor is himself a noted freelance singer well able to combine directing the splendid North Yorkshire Chorus and Hull Sinfonia with the added role of tenor.

In the absence of the afflicted Paul Badley, Martin Hindmarsh's singing was assured and pleasingly articulated.

It will doubtless have occurred to him that, each time he turned his back on the combined ranks of the near-100-strong orchestra and choir to take on his unexpected extra responsibility, a nice piece of Handelian authenticity was added to the performance; in Georgian times, it was customary for the harpsicordist to sergeant-major the ensemble, and at intervals on Saturday evening at the acoustically refined new tabernacle, it fell to John Dunford to do likewise.

Fittingly, the tenor's voice is the first to be heard in Handel's great devotional work. But it falls to the bass part, here sung by the much-travelled bass-baritone Neil Baker, to sing lines which have a strikingly contemporary relevance as this most famous of oratorios begins its traditional pre-Christmas round of performances.

At a time when secular fundamentalists, especially in this country and the US, rush to condemn religion as the font of many of the world's travails, a frisson is provoked by "Why do the nations so furiously rage together ... The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His annointed".

Then comes that joyful response from the chorus, in full cry with a torrent of notes, allegro and staccato, to threaten the earthly powerful: "Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their yokes from us".

It is potent stuff, ahead of the magnificent climax; the Hallelujah Chorus is always moving, never more so than when sung with such disciplined fervour as displayed by the confident North Yorkshire.

There were accomplished renderings of some of the Bible's most elegant prose by all four soloists, including soprano Angela Kazimierczuk and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Westwood, who is married to Martin Hindmarsh; also contributing to a well-satisfying performance in support of Marie Curie Cancer Care were organist Greg Smith, head of music at Northallerton Parish Church and Hurworth House School, and, with faultless obligato trumpet alongside "The dead shall be raised incorruptible", Niall McEwen.

But, as it should be, the evening really belonged to the massed voices. 

    

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