Review of Handel’s Saul, May 2017

A Resounding Musical Success!

On May 13th in St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston-on-Stour, under the thorough baton of dedicated musical director Richard Emms, his Shipston choir, the Stour Singers, and the well-established, youthful chamber orchestra, Midlands-based Queen’s Park Sinfonia, performed Handel’s Oratorio Saul to the delight of all who came.  Music comes in all shapes and sizes from Pop and Rock to high Baroque, something to suit all tastes.  It can thrill, chill, move and elate us.  This programme was elating.

And the choir and audience were blessed with five extraordinary and highly professional vocal soloists!  Handel wanted to tell a famous dramatic story and it could surely not have been better told than by these five singers.  Australian soprano, Anita Watson, winner of so many international competitions, sang Saul’s daughter and lover of David, Michal, in her rich and beautiful voice, which rang out with warmth and distinction.  Tim Morgan, a young countertenor, was technically excellent and sang David with an astonishing range and richness, simply a lovely voice.  Ben Thapa, tenor, sang Jonathan and his dramatically expressive singing was equally exemplified in the other roles he took.  Baritone, Alistair Donaghue, fulfilled the voice of prophesy and other parts with clarity and with a warm and liquid tone that charmed the ear.  The commanding and explicit voice of bass baritone, Darren Jeffery, sang the tormented King Saul and filled it with strength and emotional depth and with great clarity.  What a tremendous and hugely experienced quintet of soloists to put over so much drama with such conviction!

And the choir?  It was outstanding on this occasion, both in its balanced vocal strength and interpretation.  Quick and clear on their entries, the choristers put everything they had at their vocal disposal into this moving feast, from feisty to moments of pure sorrow as in ‘Mourn Israel…‘.  They sounded very confident and appeared to be enjoying singing.

Providing the continuous musical accompaniment to all the vocal performers in Handel’s emotionally wide-ranging score was the Queen’s Park Sinfonia with its lively and dynamically expressive playing, with special praise for the woodwind… and to Rachel Bird, the choir’s accompanist, on keyboard.

This was an evening-out to remember: amazing composer, live musicians, live audience, live music on our rural doorstep.  We live in troubled times, but in such music, telling a tale going back more than three thousand years, we are reminded across centuries of our humanity and that while there’s life, there’s love and hope.  And music surely plays a deep and central role in our lives!

Ina M. Evans

Review by Richard Emms

Saul’s soloists

I would like to thank Vic Twyman for bringing together such an excellent group of soloists for the recent performance of Handel’s Saul. Apart from singing so beautifully, through their sensitive characterisation they made the piece work as a most moving piece of drama.

Congratulations to the choir, too, for their musical commitment; and also, in their role as the People of Israel, capturing convincingly the wildly fluctuating moods of the people.

 

Richard Emms
(Musical Director)