Sunday 25 November 2018   Holy Trinity Church, Knaresborough

24 November 2013





This year’s performance of the 11th  Nidderdale  “Messiah” by Handel was dedicated to one of its original founders,  John Hodgson, who, sadly, had died just a couple of weeks earlier.  In her tribute, retiring Chair Katy Penn said how John “had been the mainstay of the Nidderdale Messiah from the beginning and had stamped his personality on it, making it very much his own and contributing much to its success in raising over £40,000 for charities both near and far”.  Over its 11 years, the event has progressively  increased in popularity and this year Holy Trinity Church was packed with singers and audience.  In the nature of such DIY events, singers outnumbered audience by a large number and the rousing performance was one of which John H would have been justly proud.


In recent years, it has been the policy of the organisers to appoint young developing singers as  soloists and so it was this year.  Penny Carpenter (soprano) and Hannah Johnstone (alto) are both music undergraduates at York University and, after an understandably nervous start for such young singers, both grew in confidence as the evening progressed.  In “He shall feed his flock”, Hannah showed a voice of great promise with depth and character and, in the soprano section, Penny sang with a clear tone and fluid musical line.  Ross Scanlon (tenor) sang with a strong voice and, if his style in his arias did not always perfectly match the demands of Baroque oratorio, his dramatic recitatives were very impressively sung and Che Seabourne (bass) rose extremely well to the substantial demands of “And the Trumpet Shall Sound”.  All these young singers had much to offer and it was refreshing to see them enjoying themselves so much in front of 200 singers and audience.


Occasions like this belong, of course, to the church full of singers who come along (and pay to do it!) to sing Handel’s glorious music for charity and it is in this that lies the heart of the Nidderdale Messiah.  The large choir sang its heart out and, if some of the fearsome semiquaver runs and Handel’s dotted rhythms were not absolutely as Handel himself might have wished, it mattered not a jot and detracted not at all from the impact of the occasion due to the sheer enthusiasm and concentration of the singers.  Just one example -  the adagio ending of “For we, like sheep”  was beautifully and movingly sung and contrasted very well  with the rest of this difficult chorus.


The performance was masterfully directed by conductor David Andrews who kept a firm hand on recitatives and choruses while giving soloists their heads in the arias.  His detailed and well-signalled attention to choral entries, some of them very challenging, played a large part in the success of the choral singing and kept the large choir together.  After only the briefest of rehearsal time, this was a very considerable achievement indeed.  In this, he was ably assisted by John Dunford (organ), Beryl Pankhurst (harpsichord), Laurence Hughes (cello), Margaret Smith (timpani) and Andrew Jackson (trumpet) who lent valuable support to recitatives and some of the choruses.


As  the great choral outburst of “Worthy is the lamb” led the performance to a resounding “Amen”, audience and singers alike could well say “Amen to that” to conclude another great fundraiser, this year in aid of Saint Michael’s Hospice.  It is often said that many events eventually run their course and fizzle out.  Judging by this year’s turnout and performance, this is not on the horizon for the Nidderdale Messiah and I personally hope (and so would have John Hodgson) that the Nidderdale Messiah continues its sterling work for years to come.


John Mitchell

23 November 2014

20 November 2016
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Sunday 26 November 2017