RHEINDAHLEN CHORAL SOCIETY HANDELS A GOOD CONCERT
By a departure from the usual concert format of Christmas carols, the Rheindahlen Choral Society will, on Sunday 17th December at 7.30pm, in St Boniface Church, Rheindahlen Military Complex, perform that most famous of oratorios, 'Messiah' composed by Georg Friedrich Handel in 1741. Some of the many choruses are considered difficult and 4 professional soloists will be employed for the evening. Musical accompaniment will be supplied by an organist and a trumpeter, while Windsor School's head of music, Adrian Brind, will wield the baton.
It takes many hours of practice on cold, dark Monday nights to achieve the required standard, but Adrian has cheerfully coached the choir each week, ably assisted by pianists Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Howe and Ray Ross and also on occasion by his musical director stand-in, John Kille.
'Messiah' has an interesting history. When the 25 year old German-born Handel first visited England in 1710, his operas made him an immediate success with the audiences. The grossly overweight showman, who was known to devour a meal for 7 was literally larger than life, but owing to the fickle nature of the general public, his operas fell out of favour and by the spring of 1741 he was feeling depressed, considering returning to Germany. Then two things happened. Firstly, the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, invited him to visit Dublin, suggesting he give a number of concerts in aid of three Irish charities. At the same time he received the lyrics from a certain Charles Jennings for a religious oratorio. Seeing an escape route from his unhappy situation in London, the by now naturalised Briton took on both projects, promising to spend a year writing the music to make this his best yet composition.
In Dublin he wrote with such inspiration, vigour and discipline that on 14th September 1741, just 24 days after he had begun, Handel completed 'Messiah'. The work is, of course, about Jesus Christ and describes three phases - the prophecy of the coming saviour and God's apparent willingness to sacrifice his only son, the subsequent rejection of Jesus by the people and finally, the demonstration that death has been conquered.
At the debut concert of 'Messiah' in 1742, it was so popular with the catholic population of Dublin that 700 people were crammed into a theatre with a usual capacity for 600. This was only possible because the women had been asked not to wear hoops in their skirts and the men had to leave their swords at home. In contrast, the first public performance in England the following year drew extreme criticism, mainly from people who considered it wrong that a religious oratorio should be sung anywhere but in a church. Jennings in particular was very disappointed with the music and wrote: 'I shall put no more sacred works into his hands to be thus abused'.
It took another charity concert in Dublin, this time in 1750, to finally produce the spark to make 'Messiah' universally popular.
After Handel's death many different versions were performed, including one by Mozart. Also, the size of the productions was ever increasing. In 1856 the Crystal Palace Company put on the oratorio with an orchestra of 500 and a choir of 4,000 for an audience of 87,769!
The Rheindahlen Choral Society, which has run for 40 years, nearly became extinct recently, mainly for the want of a musical director, but Padre Kingsley-Joyce had the inspiration for the concert. He shared the idea with Nigel Pinkney, who, with his wife Suzannah, urged virtually all previous and several new members to return. Anyone who enjoys singing (and who needn't be a good reader of music) should consider visiting St. Boniface Church at 8.00pm on Monday evenings to exercise their voice. Sopranos, altos, basses and especially tenors (the higher male voices) are sought.
Rheindahlen Choral Society's festive season performance is certain to delight the audience. Children under 14 years of age will be admitted free of charge. Those who fail to get tickets from Rheindahlen HIVE or from Society member may be able to purchase them on the night of the concert.