120 years not out - Bristol Choral Society's Messiah at Colston Hall
By scchoir | Sunday, December 16, 2012, 12:07
Handel's Messiah returns to Colston Hall this Christmas on Saturday 22 December, with two chances to catch Bristol Choral Society's renowned performance - the full evening performance at 7.30pm and before that a 'Mini Messiah' for families with children at 4.30pm and 2012 marks a special anniversary for Bristol's longest established Messiah: 120 years almost to the day since Bristol Choral Society's first Messiah at the Colston Hall in 1892.
Bristol Choral Society performing Messiah at Colston Hall with orchestra Music for Awhile and conductor Adrian Partington
Handel's Messiah: Bristol Choral Society at Colston Hall 22 December 2012
The Hall may have burned to the ground and been rebuilt twice since then, and generations of Bristol folk have come and gone, but Bristol Choral Society's Messiah at the Hall remains a constant and firmly established Bristol Christmas tradition - the choir has performed the work almost every year, on the Saturday before Christmas at Colston Hall, since that 1892 debut and hundreds of thousands of Bristolians have flocked to those performances ever since.
It's easy to see why - packed with tunes that are well-known and loved, such as For unto us a child is born, I know that my redeemer liveth and of course the Hallelujah chorus to name a few, Messiah has always been well-loved by audiences. Conductor Adrian Partington has taken part in more than 100 performance of Messiah, but says 'it's one of the greatest, uplifting, life-enhancing pieces of music ever written. When you hear a great piece like Messiah you realise it's stood the test of time, providing stimulation and cheering so many people up over the years'.
Bristol Choral Society's Messiah may have history, but it's far from old-fashioned - the choir's rendition has won renown as the choir sing the work entirely from memory (believed to be the only choir in the country to do so) in a style that is light and dancing, and the delightful playing of period orchestra Music for Awhile is both scintillating and thrilling.
The Bristol Times and Mirror of 22 December 1892 had this to say of the choir's debut Messiah:
"The volume of tone was magnificent ... Every point was observed with scrupulous exactness, the leads were firmly taken up, and the phrasing and enunciation was all that could be desired."
'Exactly the same could be said of Bristol Choral Society's 21st century performances' says Adrian 'except of course these days the choir achieves the feat of performing the whole work from memory, which is quite remarkable - unique as far as I am aware - and it enables a much greater connection between the performers on stage, the music they are making and the audience who come to enjoy it'.
The choir will be joined by a distinguished quartet of soloists for this year's performance: Mary Nelson (soprano), James Neville (countertenor), Daniel Auchincloss (tenor) and Joshua Copeland (baritone) under the direction of Adrian Partington. As usual, there will be a retiring collection in aid of the Lord Mayor of Bristol's Christmas Appeal for Children.
Tickets for the complete 7.30pm performance are priced from £10 to £23 (under 25s £5, OAPs 10% discount).
Before that on the same day, a short Mini Messiah for families at 4.30pm introduces children to this Christmas favourite in under an hour. Now in its third year, the family concert has proved immediately successful, attracting large audiences of children who have been enthralled hearing this great music live. Adrian says 'I've never seen so many children at a classical concert and so completely engrossed in what they are hearing - it speaks volumes about how Handel's music is so immediately accessible and can communicate universally to people of all ages, as it has done since the 1740s when it was written. Judging by the response to these family concerts - and I hear a record audience is coming this year - it seems a long and thriving future for Bristol's Messiah is secure'.
The 4.30pm Mini Messiah family concert costs £5 for adults and accompanied children go free.
Tickets for both 22 December performances are available online at www.bristolchoral.co.uk or from Colston Hall (tel: 0117 922 3686 or in person).