Concert 2nd April 2023, St James’s Church, Louth
The Creation: Joseph Haydn
For a market town choral society to successfully tackle full scale works of this calibre is quite a demanding task. To manage it well needs a number of critical factors, principal of which is carefully planned and executed preparation.
As with decorating and many other disciplines good preparation is what determines the finished standard. Whilst the observer notices colour, contrast, texture and decor there is rarely understanding of the real ground work, now hidden by the finished effect but determinate of final quality. It was very apparent that real expertise and care had been brought to bear on training, planning and realisation of chorus, orchestra and soloists’ contributions by the society’s music staff under the overall direction of the ever affable and energetic DoM Allan Smith and the generous and skilled support of David Parker.
Haydn’s work, The Creation, was, contrary to common assumption, first realised to a libretto in English and is really conceived as a conversation between soloists, setting out the masterplan, and the chorus commenting on the results. The soloists in this performance were superb. The soprano, Juliet Montgomery singing the parts of Gabriel and Eve being the only originally booked singer and both men being late substitutes for unfortunate last minute withdrawals. Never the less Mark Wilde, tenor as Uriel and Samuel Snowden, bass as Raphael and Adam, completed the line-up of three soloists so convincingly that one wondered why they hadn’t been booked originally. The solos, duets and trio were sparkling, polished and totally convincing; the orchestral accompaniments perfectly balanced and poised.
As were the forces in the tricky orchestral introduction, ‘The Representation of Chaos’, which it certainly wasn’t. It has been gratifying watching Allan’s blossoming confidence and competence as both a choral and instrumental conductor over the last few years and tonight’s concert confirmed that progress firmly
Samuel’s Raphael impressed with consummate musicality, bell-like clarity, diction and presence. But then so did the other soloists. Juliet’s Gabriel was bright, shining, well supported and unerringly accurate and delivered with a smile that warmed an old man’s jaded heart. Mark’s Uriel similarly brought delight with clear, characterful portrayal, beautifully controlled tone and expression, exquisite clarity and awareness of all around him at all times. The trio work in ‘Thou lett’st thy breath go forth’ was sublime, and that at a calm but difficult tempo.
This leads into the chorus ‘Achieved is the Glorious Work’, a tricky double fugue achieved with conviction despite a choir by this time visibly tiring. As they might well be, with a substantial afternoon of rehearsals and a long evening of excellent chorus singing behind them. I have not heard them in better voice nor more confident and attentive, delighting in their part in this wonderful production and very obviously totally trusting of their conductor and mentor, Allan. They were outstanding in choruses such as ‘The Lord is great’, ‘Achieved is the glorious work’, ‘For ever blessed be His power’ and the rousing finale, ‘Sing the Lord, ye voices all’.
And, of course, we all robustly joined in the great ‘The heavens are telling’ chorus with soloists; well, in our heads or sotto voce we did. Well done, everyone!