The Creation - Handel
Review by Geoff Gray (Carlisle):
Now in their 39th Season, Penrith Singers gave a performance of Haydn’s oratorio ‘The Creation’ which is only the fourth time in their history that they have sung this work. On this occasion the Choir was conducted by their current Music Director, Edward Taylor, assisted by a trio of excellent soloists and accompanied by Ian Hare at the Organ and an interesting addition of three instrumentalists, flute, clarinet and ‘cello.
The oratorio is a musical dramatisation of the Biblical story of creation and ‘In the beginning’ the drama was set by the Bass Soloist, and when confirmed for us by the choir’s sudden fortissimo ‘and there was LIGHT’, we knew that we were in for an evening of fine music making and a memorable performance.
The soloists of Soprano, Tenor and Bass are assigned names, presumably those of God’s angels overseeing the creation. The Soprano and Bass later become Adam and Eve.
Paul Im Thurn sang the Bass roles of Raphael and Adam eloquently throughout the evening with a convincing interpretation of the text. Describing the creeping worm’s ‘sinuous trace’ was a highlight. The Tenor Soloist was Joseph Doody singing Uriel. He has a wonderfully clear ringing tone and he sang with clarity and conviction. Jessica Leary as Gabriel and Eve has excellent communication skills to accompany a lovely effortless (seemingly) soprano quality, an award winning combination as reflected by her CV. Their ensemble trios were well balanced and beautifully sung.
Under Edward Taylor’s precise direction, the Choir performed with confidence and attention to detail, also with effective dynamics which gave meaning and quality to the singing. Just occasionally, over exuberance resulted in a slightly ‘pushed’ tone, but this was minimal. They obviously knew the work well and enjoyed singing it and this was much appreciated by the pleasingly large audience in St Andrews.
It is a privilege to hear an accomplished organist derive such ‘colours’ and tonal variation from such a powerful instrument. Ian Hare treated us to a masterclass with the quality of his playing and choice of registration. Similarly, the instrumental playing was very effective throughout, but especially in the Soprano aria ‘On Mighty Pens’ where the flute mimics the cooing dove, just one of many lovely moments.
Here’s a puzzle. Haydn wrote for three soloists, but in the final chorus, ‘Sing the Lord, ye voices all’ he introduces a Contralto for just a few bars to sing a solo quartet? This was performed by Valerie Fox who discretely stepped out of the choir to join the line of soloists. The enjoyment of the evening was enhanced by Colin Marston’s informative programme notes.
This was a most enjoyable performance of ‘Haydn’s Creation’, one to be remembered both by listeners familiar with the work and those new to this oratorio.