Hallelujah ! Messiah returns

Messiah returns

Hallelujah – Messiah returns !

Handel’s Messiah returns to Leeds after an unwelcome and enforced absence.

Leeds Minster

Saturday 27 November 2021 7.30pm

Come and hear this glorious, life-affirming music!

Tickets £15, £12 concessions, Free FTE / Under-18s all to include a glass of wine or juice and a free programme

Handel’s Messiah has been a favourite of Yorkshire audiences and choirs for many years, and no wonder. The music and texts exude a warm and sympathetic glow and somehow draw our attention above all else to the humanity of its subject. Feel-good music, that has been sorely missed.

Alex Woodrow directs St Peter’s Singers and a stellar lineup of (mostly) young soloists. Tom Moore accompanies on the Minster’s fabulous Harrison organ.

St Peter’s Singers are proud to present the first major performance of the work in Leeds since the pandemic started. What better way is there to start your preparations for Christmas ?

Leeds Minster – access and Covid security

Leeds Minster is a large and seemingly well-ventilated building, with sufficient room for you to space out as you wish. We welcome everyone to this concert, and make a simple request, in line with the Minster’s policy, that you respect other members of the audience by wearing a face-covering when entering and leaving the building.

Public parking is available on the street and in the car park opposite the Palace Hotel at the eastern end of Leeds Minster. There is also a large NCP car park next to Leeds Markets on the other side of the railway, and the John Lewis carpark slightly further away.

 

Hallelujah !

Hallelujah!

A change of mood

It was heartening to see so many people at our recent recital Songs of Solace. We felt we had maybe struck a chord with a programme of music that acknowledged the grief and loss brought by the pandemic. Now we feel that, although the pandemic is far from over, a Hallelujah or two are in order!

So it is a delight to switch moods, and to celebrate the return of live music-making. We do so by performing one of the greatest choral works of all time, Handel’s Messiah.

Messiah sm 2 730x1024 - Hallelujah !

This extraordinary oratorio, with its iconic Hallelujah chorus, its history of fund-raising for charity, and its frequent performance by countless choral societies, has reached further into the national consciousness than any other.

Messiah resonates at almost any point in the year. But it sits firmly in the minds of many as integral to their annual preparations for Christmas.

The opening invocation ‘Comfort ye’ – never more welcome than now – seems to light the Advent candle in the winter darkness more poignantly than one could possibly imagine.

Humanity

The work covers not just the foretelling of the coming of Christ and his birth. It also tells of his Suffering and Death, his Resurrection and Ascension – the full, and rather remarkable, life-cycle!

Yet despite all this, the overwhelming feeling that this amazing music leaves us with is of the humanity of its subject – once a baby, and then ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’. This is emotionally intelligent, empathetic music, composed by someone who understood the human condition.

Performance details

This performance is given with organ, rather than orchestral, accompaniment. At the time of planning we were unable to predict whether conditions would allow space for an orchestra. We feel this has proved a wise decision. We hope that on this occasion you will enjoy hearing the glory of the Minster’s famous Harrison & Harrison organ deployed on all the familiar arias and choruses. We’re grateful to Tom Moore for agreeing to undertake this herculean task.

Our soloists – Ruby Hendry, Esther Colman, Christopher Trenholme and Quentin Brown – and St Peter’s Singers are directed by Alex Woodrow.

Tickets

We very much hope to welcome you to this concert. Tickets are available below or at the door: £15, Concessions £12, (Free FTE / Under-18). A glass of wine or juice and a free programme is included in the price.

Leeds Minster is a seemingly well-ventilated (!) and spacious building allowing you to space out if you wish. We simply request that, in line with its policy, you wear a face-covering on entering and leaving the building.

Learn more

Music for Christmas – Simon Lindley writes

St Peter’s Singers perform a programme of festive music for Christmas and Advent at Fulneck on 7 December. Simon Lindley, our director of music, shares some characteristic insights:

JS Bach: Cantata 30 ‘Freue dich, erloste Schar

Johann Sebastian Bach 750x495 - Music for Christmas - Simon Lindley writes

In common with the component six cantatas of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the music of his Cantata 30 began life as with a secular, rather than a sacred, verbal text. Like the third element of the Christmas Oratorio its opening chorus is reprised at the end, a characteristic shared with the so-called Ascension Oratorio [Praise our God who reigns in heaven] sung at the very first concert given by St Peter’s Singers way back in the Summer of 1977.

The work begins with a magnificent, energised chorus with full orchestra. This is succeeded by a brief bass recitative leading into the first of two finely festal arias for bass. At the heart of the work is an exquisite aria for solo alto underpinned by glorious sonorities for strings, topped by a solo flute. This is one of its creator’s splendid concepts with a gently dance-like momentum that seems to carry the listener to the gate of heaven itself. A hymn verse of the chorale Freu dich Sehr closes the first half of the work. A second bass recitative and aria follows in what has become known as the gallant style of the 1730s. The big rolling arpeggios that accompany the soprano aria not only illustrate the running of the sinner but also the smoke rising from the altars in the tents of Kedar . There is no final chorale. The piece concludes with a triumphant reprise of the opening.

Devised for the midsummer day feast of the Nativity of St John Baptist, the text and style of Cantata 30 make it particularly apt for the season of Advent in which the Baptist is so very intimately concerned.

R Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Christmas Carols

ralphvaughanwilliams - Music for Christmas - Simon Lindley writes

First heard at the 1912 Hereford Three Choirs’ Festival, the evergreen Fantasia on Christmas Carols is one of Vaughan Williams’ most characteristic works. Strongly featured are the traditional carols Come, all you worthy gentlemen and the famous “Sussex Carol” – On Christmas night all Christians sing. In just over ten minutes, the composer devises a magical and rapturous sound world of triumphant expectation of raptured utterance. There are memorable solos for ‘cello as well as a baritone soloist that linger long in the memory!

GF Handel: Messiah (Pt I and Hallelujah chorus)

handel - Music for Christmas - Simon Lindley writes

Messiah, a work produced by Handel in 1742 for performance in Dublin at a major charitable endeavour for the relief of the prisoners in the jails of the Irish capital city, is by far the best known of that great composer’s works. The anticipation of the birth of the Saviour, its prophecy and fulfilment, takes up most of Part I and St Peter’s Singers Fulneck performances of that noble musical torso traditionally end with the singing of the final chorus of the work’s second part – the Hallelujah Chorus. Each of the four vocal soloists is closely involved during the course of the 21 numbers from part one given at Fulneck at this time of year as is the choir.

During the course of the last decade of his long professional life, Handel arranged annual performances of Messiah for the support of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital at the heart of London. These presentations within the, now long-gone, chapel of the Foundling Hospital, give us much written evidence of the Handel’s performing practice gleaned from the details of the account books that survive to posterity.