Review: Ottery Choral Society get audiences ‘undivided attention’ in concert

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is an amazing work. It’s like putting on your favourite comfortable jacket; you’re straight in there, or it’s almost as if Handel was putting all his greatest hits into one album. So, in a concert it needs something special to make you listen in detail and not sleepwalk through it.

Saturday last, the Ottery St Mary Choral Society and Orchestra won the undivided attention of a pretty packed Parish Church with a very enjoyable and well-presented performance. All credit for conductor Malcom Matthews in leading everyone so well. Heloise West’s ringing, solid, soprano voice was a delight; Marie Elliott brought empathy and feeling to the mezzo role; Leslie Baker as ever filled the tenor seat and David Fouracre’s lighter bass baritone fitted the music more than might a full, darker, bass. The choir gets full marks for its solid performance, ably supported by the orchestra.

The overture set the scene nicely for the first part with a good pace from the beginning. The choir gave Glory to God a full and triumphal feel, reinforced by good brass support. The start of the second part was most sensitively done, with a sombre and emotional tone. Marie Elliott was especially empathetic in ‘He was despised’ and Leslie Baker and the chorus brought an accusatorial, sarcastic, sense to ‘All they that see him’ and ‘He trusted in God’.

The audience had been invited to stand for the Hallelujah chorus but seemed most ambivalent in getting to its feet, perhaps showing the anachronism of this quaint procedure. It seems somewhat unnecessary unless they were to join in the singing, despite whatever George II thought in 1743. Nonetheless it was given a glorious rendering by the choir, with solid, soaring highs.

The short third part had some good highlights. Heloise West gave a lovely melodic ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’; the chorus just had a baleful touch in Since by man came death. Probably the crowning moment was David Fouracre’s The trumpet shall sound, authoritatively sung alongside a glorious trumpet fanfare, in preparation for a rousing finish to a thoroughly satisfying performance.

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Stephen Huyshe-Shires

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