Glorious way to enjoy Handel's music

Nidderdale Messiah, St Cuthbert's Church, Pateley Bridge.

SINGERS from as far away as Darlington and Whitby joined some 160 others at St Cuthbert’s Church, Pateley Bridge on the occasion of the fifth annual charity performance on Sunday.

Open to all to come and sing or join the audience, this year’s event was held in support of the Carers’ Resource, an award-winning charity local to Harrogate, Ripon and Skipton, and by a happy co-incidence one of the Mayor of Harrogate’s two nominated charities this year.

Attended by both the Mayor and Mayoress of Harrogate, Coun John Fox and his wife Maggie, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Pateley Bridge, Coun Les Ellington and his wife Christine, the soloists and choir for the day were in fine form.

The musical accompaniment was provided by John Dunford on the organ, well known in the area as the director of both the Ripon and Wetherby Choral Societies, the highly experienced accompanist Beryl Pankhurst on the harpsichord, David Lancaster, recently appointed musical director of the Yorkshire Imperial Metals Band, on the trumpet with an ensemble given further colour by Peter Woods with the cello and Margaret Smith with the timpani.

As might be expected from players of such calibre, their playing was always sympathetic marred only by occasional tuning problems, most likely caused by the freezing weather resulting in substantial temperature variations within the sizeable church.

Under the highly capable and persuasive baton of Marilynne Davies, the assembled company was transformed in just one and a half hours into a well moulded choir that excelled itself by the time of the performance at 3.30pm. The choir sang with precision and confidence, apart from a hesitation on the part of the gentlemen at the commencement of “The Lord gave the Word”. Furthermore, the achievement of a particularly wide range of dynamics was remarkable by any standards.

The soprano soloist, Sarah-Ann Cromwell, from Birmingham, was in fine voice throughout, culminating in a particularly sensitive and compassionate interpretation of “I know that my Redeemer Liveth” rendered with immaculate tuning.

Mezzo-soprano Joanna Gamble, currently living in Leeds and who made her solo debut at the Salzburg Festival, made a welcome appearance, quickly demonstrating the rich quality of her singing. Paul Dutton, well-known to audiences in the area, offered us both sensitivity in his opening “Comfort ye my people” and power with his delivery of “Thou shalt break them”.

Bass soloist David Hall, another local prizewinning singer, has in the opinion of this reviewer developed tremendously within the last three or four years and we could not only almost feel the heaven and the earth being shaken but his duet with David Lancaster in “The trumpet shall sound” was truly memorable.

So the day ended very happily with a stirring and very moving final “Amen” clearly sung from the heart.

Anne Wells of the Carers’ Resource said: “I could not have wished for a better or more enjoyable day. Unpaid carers from the ages of seven to over 90 will benefit from the generosity of those that sponsored the event, advertised in the programme and all those who participated. I thank them one and all.”

John Hodgson and John Mitchell, the two organisers, said: “We started Nidderdale Messiah in 2004 as a community event to herald Christmas in which all could participate, to enjoy Handel’s glorious music and to raise funds for charities”. Clearly they have succeeded. This is no run-of-the-mill “Come and Sing” Messiah. Long may it continue.

Geoffrey Raspin