Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Limerick's Handel for the President

        How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things

There is nothing like a presidential presence to pep up the sense of occasion and there was  a capacity house at UCH Limerick when President Michael D Higgins arrived with his entourage for the performance of  Handel's evergreen oratorio,  Messiah by Limerick Choral Union and Orchestra. Considering that there must have been a plethora of  Messiahs in spitting distance of the Áras, it was quite a coup to have an tUachtaráin in the house. This was the third time that  I have had the pleasure of performing this work with the Choral Union and on this occasion, although all the soloists (all with strong connections to the region), aquitted themselves well and the orchestra  played with suitable brio it was the choir themselves who stole the show.

Malcolm Green
The 100 strong choral ensemble  fired by the enthusiasm of their director sang tunefully and with great attention to dynamic contrasts in the many wonderful choruses.  My seat in the string section of the orchestra, embedded in the delta of the tenors and the quadruple reeds of Michael Dooley's bassoon and Peter Plunkett's oboe, was a good vantage point to hear  the inner voices of this glorious work (once the boys had completed the ritual grousing about the aforementioned reeds). And also to observe the lovely sense of rapport  between the conductor Malcolm Green and his solid chorus, which appeared to harbour no passengers but sang with verve and enthusiasm throughout. Their audience was remarkably hushed throughout as if totally in thrall to the spell cast by the performers with a minimal amount of seasonal throat clearing.

Stuart O Sullivan's continuo was the solid lynchpin it needs to be to glue this work together, varying the sound occasionally to organ to good effect and Will Palmer's soprano trumpet was suitably  splendid,  filling the large auditorium with bright thrilling sound.
President Higgins
A comprehensive and well produced  programme was available with printed  libretto, biographies, notes on the LCU's history, photographs and context of the work and conveyed a sense of the volume of manpower and effort involved in mounting such a production.  Audience members lingered in the foyer for a considerable time after the performance savouring the sense of occasion .*

'Messiah, like the celebration of Christmas, is sufficiently rich and complex to speak to a range of human needs and emotions, irrespective of its' immediate Judaeo-Christian framework'  
from programme note by Dr. Paul Collins

Previous posts featuring LCU 

Report on LCU's performance of Jenkin's Stabat Mater 2010 

Best gigs of 2010 

* ( It seems a pity that UCH doesn't encourage patrons to linger following performances with bar and café closed )

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