Samson brings the house down



IT'S December and all over the UK choral societies will be brushing up their Messiahs, but on the first Saturday of this Christmas month, Newbury Choral Society, under the baton of their musical director Cathal Garvey, gave us something a little different in the shape of another of Handel's mighty oratorios, Samson.
The original piece was more than three hours in length so the composer, realising it was too long, cut it down and Cathal told us he had also made a few tweaks here and there.

Five top notch soloists sang the roles of Samson (Paul Austin Kelly), Dalila (Anna Devin), Micah (Hannah Pedley), Manoah (Stephen Charlesworth) and Harapha (Paul Carey Jones) and although the programme text didn't always match their sung words, these fine performers narrated the well-known tale of love, betrayal, death and destruction with passion and tenderness, wonderful singers all.


Newbury Choral Society: Samson, at St Nicolas Church, on Saturday, December 1

Cathal gave us one of his "So, this is how the story goes..." introductions and explained that the choir played both the goodies (Israelites) and the baddies (Philistines) and that, although Dalila had betrayed her husband by cutting off his hair and allowing of the Philistines to gouge out his eyes and tie him up in chains, she had come to see him, hoping for a reconciliation and couldn't understand why he wasn't in the mood to compromise.

The London Ulysses Orchestra supported the choir well and the choir's own accompanist Steve Bowey, played the organ. Special mention should go to the oboists (Claire Hoskins and Richard O'Neal) and the two dazzling trumpet players (Katherine Knight and Louis Barclay), although it might have been better if they'd shared their secret jokes after the concert - it was rather distracting for those of us who could see them tucked away behind the huge pillar.
NCS will perform Haydn's The Seasons at St Nic's on Saturday March 23rd, and given the differences in numbers between the sopranos/altos (63) and tenors/basses (29), I wondered whether rearranging the seating mightn't help balance the sound a little more evenly. I would also love to hear every single consonant enunciated to perfection in order to combat the difficult acoustic of the church.
But well done Newbury Choral Society, another feather in your cap.

Fiona Bennett



Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News