Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Review: Handel’s Messiah by Consonance led by Tom Anderson

Guest contributor Alison Harvey shares her thoughts on Handel's Messiah by new choral group Consonance, led by Tom Anderson

Review: Handel’s Messiah by Consonance led by Tom Anderson
By Alison Harvey

The inaugural concert by the new choral collective Consonance at Victoria Concert Hall on Sunday 23rd of April was a joyous and uplifting performance of Handel’s Messiah. Messiah, being the most - performed choral work in the canon, was potentially an ambitious selection, but Consonance delivered, and the audience left feeling pleasantly revived. The first ever performance of Messiah in 1742 was at Easter, and it seems especially appropriate for Consonance to perform this somewhat over-exposed work at the right time of year and avoid the overcrowded Christmas period.

The charming preconcert announcements encouraging the audience to avoid coughing (unless in G Major) set the tone for a relaxed professional performance. The Chamber Orchestra played energetically and enthusiastically throughout, and special mention should be made of trumpeter David Marley (The Trumpet Shall Sound in Part III) as his bravura trumpet solo was handled with precision and flair. As accompanists to the soloists and singers the musicians were always appropriately balanced and complementary. 

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For the most part, the orchestral ensemble handled the tensions and excitement with precision, crisp articulation and beautifully observed dynamics. However the lower strings occasionally sagged in pitch and tempo, especially in fast-moving pieces such as All We Like Sheep. Nonetheless, these minor flaws did not affect our enjoyment of the music.

Listening to Messiah can feel like a Greatest Hits compilation and it was heartening to feel genuine passion in the chorus as they offered stirring renditions of well-known works (such as And the Glory of the Lord and O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion). In general, there was excellent balance between the different choral voices, allowing the textures of the fugal sections to shine through, despite occasional weaknesses in the basses and the overall strength and brightness of the soprano voices. Technically difficult running passages (And He Shall Purify) were handled with precision; Tom Anderson clearly runs a tight ship. Overall, the articulation in the chorus was precise and accomplished, the harmonies and unisons filling the hall at times with a wall of sound.

The soloists shone. Joyce Lee Tung sang with great clarity and control across the whole register. Her diction was beautifully precise, and every note showed real brilliance of tone. Jonathan Charles Tay sang with warmth and bright rich tone. Alvin Julian Tan sang with assurance and great depth, with clear diction. Rebecca Chellappah has a mellifluous gentle voice contrasting with the bright tone of the soprano.

An excellent debut for this new ensemble and we should certainly look forward to future performances.

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