In the 65th year of its foundation, Sheffield Bach Choir, widely regarded as one of the finest such groups in Britain, present Handel’s Samson at St Mark’s, Broomhill on Saturday 17 October 2015 at 7.30.
Samson is one of Handel’s most dramatic and powerful works. Nearest in date of composition to his masterpiece, Messiah, the pages of Samson burn with the same degree of committed fervour with regard to his setting of the selected vocal texts.
The piece has everything – love, intrigue, betrayal, murder and internecine strife between Philistines and Israelites. Ultimately, of course, the Lord Jehovah emerges triumphant against a whole host of pagan deities, including Dagon and Samson concludes with the show-stopping Let the bright Seraphim in burning row and its succeeding final chorus Let their celestial concerts all unite (the soprano equivalent of Messiah’s The trumpet shall sound).
Other magical moments include much music for the eponymous hero including the moving Total eclipse in which he bemoans his loss of sight. Dalila’s betrayal includes coquettish, yet treacherous, treatments of some of the most memorable texts.
The bass soloist includes roles as Harapha – a giant of Gath – and the more tender material for Manoah, father of Samson.
The alto takes the role of the prophet Micah with memorable melodies of great beauty in abundant profusion.
The performance by Sheffield Bach Choir includes the omission of a few, but not many, numbers to bring the duration within reasonable length.
The National Festival Orchestra is led by Nicholas Meredith, with acclaimed solo trumpeter Jamie O’Brien. The continuo accompaniments, on harpsichord as well as chamber organ, are in the hands of Alan Horsey. Principal soloists are Kristina James, Kathryn Woodruff, Christopher Trenholme in the title role and bass Quentin Brown along with Helen Strange, a gifted young singer, in the significant role of the Israelitish Woman. The Bach Choir’s Music Director, Dr Simon Lindley, conducts – forty five years on from the first time he directed the piece, in St Albans Cathedral.
Unlike many of “pensionable” age, the enthusiastic members of the Bach Choir have no thoughts of the prospect of carpet slipper existence by a home fireside! Far from it – their 65th season comprises a complete account of Handel’s Messiah at Sheffield Cathedral on Monday 7 December and Bach’s St John Passion at the same venue in March.