CONCORDIA VOICES

HANDEL'S MESSIAH

Handel
St. Mary Magdalene Richmond, Saturday 12 November 2005
Christ Church Spitalfields, Sunday 13 November 2005

Musical Director: Neil Ferris
Soprano Soloist: Adey Grummet
Contralto Soloist: Alison Crookendale
Tenor Soloist: Christopher Bowen
Tenor Soloist: Christopher Hodges

Howard Jacobson: If you want new citizens to learn about Englishness, get them to join a choir (Extract from the article in the Independant 19 November 2005)

"Took in a stirring Messiah last week, the more solemn for being in a church and not the Albert Hall, and the more affecting for being intimate - a chamber choir of about 40 rather than the massed thousands which impresarios believe the "Hallelujah Chorus" necessitates. The church was Christ Church, Spitalfields, newly restored to its original austere handsomeness - the sort of church in which you converse with God rather than prostrate yourself before him, but in which you converse, nonetheless, with a proper regard for what is sacred.

The choir was Concordia - amateur singers under professional direction, which is just the way you want it. Nobody looking bored with having to turn out and sing it for the hundredth time this Christmas, but none of that veins-in-the-neck parochial eagerness you get with the Nether Piddleton Philharmonia either.

It helps with an oratorio, I now realise, to sit near the front. Where you would otherwise doze off briefly, you are, if you can eyeball the soprano or the bass and be eyeballed back, not only duty bound to stay alert, but too engaged to do otherwise, fascinated by the relation the voice bears to the person. Intimate is the thing. Find a small church, find a small choir, sit on the front row, and see if you can match the individual note to the individual choir member. I am not saying Handel has longueurs, but no work of art was ever fashioned that doesn't allow the mind to stray occasionally. And anyway, the singers - not to mention, in this instance, the solo trumpeter whose "The Trumpet shall sound" had us all clamouring to get into heaven - "are" the art.

I was so taken with Concordia, so grateful to them for keeping me musically on the edge of my seat and giving me a Messiah which didn’t come alive only in the best bits, that I looked up their website when I got home, still humming “All we like sheep have gone astray". Go to Concordia’s members' information and you want to join. All those directions mixing bus times with must-have music lists, the Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems and why it’s a good idea to leave valuables at home or in the hotel safe; all those suggestions as to what, in the matter of clothing and jewellery, scarves, belts etc is or is not considered discreet; the surprising, not to say thrilling exclamation mark that follows the instruction to the ladies to wear a "Long black skirt or trousers (or short with black tights/stockings!)" - black stockings, exclamation mark, ah, why was I never in a choir when I was young and looking to go astray."