The work that makes soloists join in the chorus

There’s a fascinating set of Messiah reflections from leading singers on the AskonasHolt site. Among others, John Mark Ainsley recalls:

A few years ago, I did a staged version of the Messiah at the Coliseum with English National Opera, and the one thing I found absolutely extraordinary about every single performance was when we all sang the final chorus. Normally, as a soloist you’re stood apart from the chorus, but in this production the soloists were distributed amongst them on the stage, and standing in the middle of that great wedge of sound that an operatic choir can produce is the most extraordinary feeling: it’s like the whole thing is going through you.


photo: Tristram Kenton


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  • That is certainly a more aesthetically pleasing way to perform “Messiah” than in the most recent performance at the Festival Hall in which Ainsley was a soloist. There he and the other soloists were positioned on the left of the concert platform, at some remove from the period ensemble and conductor, and were required (by whom, I wonder?) to walk ostentatiously to the front of the platform to deliver their solos. Again and again. Admittedly, the Festival Hall is not much more than a stone’s throw from Waterloo Station, but this constant coming and going produced the most irritating visual effect I have ever witnessed in performances of this great oratorio.

    • Hmm… obviously a very ‘controlling’ conductor… which means it could only have been on ‘one of three’:
      Sir John Eliot Gardiner
      Paul McCreesh
      Harry Christophers
      all of them wonderful musicians who alas are not noted for their ‘people management skills’!

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