Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Choral

A view of Huddersfield from Castle Hill   Source Wikipedia

For one day a year a week or so before Christmas Huddersfield becomes the centre of the musical world. On that day the Huddersfield Choral Society which is arguably the best choir in Britain if not the world performs Handel's Messiah in Huddersfield Town Hall.

The Choral as we like to call it has a unique sound which is easier to experience than describe. It is something that is felt almost as much as heard. It can be awesome and almost frightening, a rumble like an express train or even an earthquake in the Dies Irae of Verdi's Requiem. Or it can soar majestically in the Hallelujah chorus as it did yesterday. What my late spouse called "a foretaste of Heaven". Words, incidentally, used to describe only one other shared experience during a long marriage, the beauty and tranquillity of Iona. I have heard recordings of the Choral that were made before I was born and that sound was there. I have heard other Messiahs by other great choirs, and, despite the richness of their sound, it was not there.

Although  this Huddersfield sound is a constant each year every Messiah is different because there are different conductors and different soloists. Last night the conductor was Martyn Brabbins and he understands us the subscribers. How we clapped and how we cheered and, at one point, Brabbins conducted our cheers. We, the audience, good solid Yorkshire folk are part of every performance, you know. We could sing it ourselves from memory. Every word. Every note.

In fact we do sing a little because every Messiah begins with the Christmas Hymn, 
"Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
Wherein the Saviour of mankind was born;"
Yesterday we were conducted by the Choral's chorus master Joseph Cullen. And he understands Yorkshire folk too.

We had four wonderful soloists, Susan Gritton, soprano, David Allsopp, countertenor, Ben Johnson, tenor and Neal Davies, bass.  Allsopp brought out qualities of the score that I had never previously noticed. I was particularly moved when he sang the air "He was despised". We had a great organist in Darius Battiwalla. And last but not least the magnificent Royal Northern Sinfonia.

"So what's all this got to do with ballet or even dance?" I hear you say. Well I did reserve the right to go off topic occasionally for an exceptional concert and this was certainly exceptional. And we dance in Huddersfield as well as sing (see "The Base Studios, Huddersfield"). We produced David Bintley of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. I don't know whether he had any connection with the Choral or even attended a concert but you can't live in this part of Yorkshire without knowing about it. The Choral must have been part of Bintley's cultural heritage.

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