Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jephtha by Handel

I think I may have spelt the name of this oratorio wrongly in a recent post on my other blog. One of the difficulties of travelling and typing: you don’t always get a chance to check the details.
Anyway, as I mentioned elsewhere it was being rehearsed when we came across it. The group performing it were the Orlando Choir, a group which specialises in baroque music. The only soloist we heard rehearse was a youngish man called Alexander Ashworth, a bass-baritone. He has a fine and fluid voice, and sang in a remarkably relaxed style.
The choir was also dealing with Handel’s constant runs and scales with ease, and also with the fugues that permeate his works. This is another amateur choir - amateur here in London doesn’t mean that the work will be done in a slapdash fashion, or done without professionalism and skill. The Orlando, the BBC, the Philharmonia, the Crouch End and the Trinity boys’ choirs were all remarkable in their professionalism, even though, as far as I can tell, these people don’t actually sing for a living. (Though the boys’ choir has done so many concerts and tours that they might as well - can’t imagine when they get their schoolwork done.)
The conductor - a very relaxed fellow, too - was James Weeks. I don’t know how old he is, but he didn’t seem to be more than in his early thirties. Hang on, he was born in 1978, so that makes only 29. Apparently he has at least thirty hours in the day, because apart from conducting the Orlando, he conducts another choir - the Exaudi Vocal Ensemble; he freelances with other choirs, he plays the organ, he writes on organists and contemporary music - and he composes. Crikey.

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