Music at Sevenoaks: Handel’s Messiah

This final concert of the Lent term sent us off for the Easter holidays in magnificent style.  

The combined forces of the Choral Society and the Parents’ Choir (some 170 singers) were expertly accompanied by continuo on the organ from Douglas Tang and the harpsichord from William Fairbairn; while a small orchestra which never seemed overwhelmed by the choir played with finesse in accompanying the many soloists, and rose splendidly to the occasion in the great choruses.

In the dramatic contrasts of the overture Michael Heighway established a discreet authority at once: there could not have been a better introduction to Ben Hancox-Lachman’s ‘Comfort ye’ and ‘Ev’ry valley’. The expressive command and beauty of tone here made it hard to believe that we were listening to a Year 11 pupil.

Vita de Munck and Jacob Robinson also impressed by beauty of tone and clarity of articulation (notable throughout the evening) in ‘O thou that tellest’ and ‘For behold’, respectively. Jasmine Coomber sailed effortlessly over the orchestra in the contrasting moods of ‘Rejoice greatly’ and in the exciting build-up to the finale of Part One, while Sophie Littlewood and Tilly Robson formed an expressive pairing in ‘He shall feed his flock’.

Part One ended with the thrillingly fugal ‘Glory to God’ in which those trumpets we had seem in the gallery came into their own.

After the interval, the well-disciplined chorus led us up to the always exciting ‘All we like sheep’. Certainly no one here went astray, however complex the writing. Darcy Lambert was sensitive and touching in ‘Behold and See’ and Sehee Lim brought lovely colour and clarity to ‘But thou didst not leave’, leading us to a ‘Hallelujah’ chorus whose vigour and unanimity sent a shiver down the spine – even in a very hot hall.

Julia Morris began Part Three with a beautiful rendering of ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’, her pure top notes shining out movingly.

How to cap the Hallelujah chorus? The dazzling fugal intensity of ‘Worthy is the Lamb’, again shot through with the pure gold of trumpets; the piling of layer upon layer in the final ‘Amen’ with wonderfully exciting work for the violins and for Jess Wood on timpani, brought the concert to a worthy climax.

Paul Harrison

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