|Handel's Israel in Egypt|
Magnificent Choral singing
Oratorios are the staple diet of large choirs but few test them in quite the same way as Handel’s Israel in Egypt: it is full of chorus work (some for double choir) and has very little orchestral introduction or solo work to give time to rest the voice. This is in contrast to better known works like the Messiah and Elijah. To attempt it is brave, to produce such at a memorable concert is a great credit to Louth Choral Society under their Musical Director, Martin Pickering.The concert started with a short orchestral introduction by The Eastern Sinfonia, leader Ray Sidebottom, who were in fine form throughout and their accompaniment greatly enhanced the singing. There were six soloists in total with short but essential contributions to the performance. The highlights for me were the two duets: sopranos Ruth Jenkins and Christina Sampson in "The Lord is my strength" with its beautiful interlocking harmonies; and basses James Birchall and Christopher Foster (standing in at short notice for Andrew Wickens) in "The Lord is a man of war"" with its dramatic interchanges. Tenor Jonathan Stork showed great artistry in "The enemy said I will pursue" and male alto Stephen Burrows, one of the purest tone and flexible voices I have heard, with an effortless top E at the end of "Thou shalt bring them in".
The choir, over 100 strong, were in fine form and there was excellent balance within the choir and between the choir and orchestra from the opening double chorus. The eight consecutive choruses ending the first half were well interpreted and included some fiercely difficult sections as well as quiet reflective passages. Voices were tested to the limit, particularly the sopranos with long high passages to traverse. The last five choruses in the second half had some of the best singing of the night, producing a fine climax and enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Israel in Egypt is a work where the choir is centre stage. Few choral societies outside major cities could attempt it and the technical demands test a professional choir. To have heard such a good overall performance is therefore very special and credit to all involved.
This review was kindly supplied by John F Smith