Fernhurst Choral Society tackles one of the great works of the choral repertoire in a special concert in Chichester.
They will be performing Handel’s Messiah at St Paul’s Church on Saturday, November 21 at 7.30pm, conducted by their musical director Tim Ravalde who is also assistant organist at Chichester Cathedral.
All profits from the concert will be given to Chestnut Tree House (CTH), the charity that provides hospice services for children and young adults with progressive life-shortening conditions who live in Sussex and East Hampshire. CTH’s care services extend to the whole family, not just the child, and it is a cause the choir is proud to support, says Tim.
“It is a charity that is close to the hearts of quite a number of our members. Various members have connections with that particular charity, and the general feeling is it is an incredibly-valuable charity which deserves all our support. We usually do a November concert, but not usually in Chichester, and this is one of the reasons we are performing in Chichester now... also because St Paul’s is our best venue for singing concerts with orchestra. It has got good space for the performers and the audience, and the acoustics are perfect for singing.
“What you discover is there is enough warmth to the acoustic to keep the sound alive, but there is not so much echo that the detail gets muddy and lost. As soon as you start rehearsing there, you can sense it, and that’s the reason we keep going back to St Paul’s. And having decided we wanted to support Chestnut Tree House, we wanted to choose a location that was local to the charity.”
As Tim says, The Messiah is a crucial part of the choral repertoire: “Whether or not you are religious, you can accept the power of the story of Jesus’ birth and life and death, and Handel just seems to have put all his best tunes into this particular work. There are parts that are very challenging musically. The four-voice parts are often totally independent of each other, and you can’t learn all the music in one go. Learning it takes a while, and some of it is very fast. It requires significant vocal virtuosity.”
Tim is confident the choir will meet all the challenges: “I have been with Fernhurst since 2011, and they have not done The Messiah in my time. I think probably the last time was in about 2010, but it seems to me the sort of piece that a choir needs to revisit every five years or so. It is absolutely central. There are some works that should come around periodically like The Messiah, the Mozart Requiem, the Faure Requiem, the Bach B Minor Mass... But at the same time, I also feel it is important that we do a very diverse repertoire. I think if we wanted, we could sustain ten years without repeating anything!”
The concert finds the choir in good heart: “The numbers are strong at the moment, though if anyone wants to join us, they can do so in January (through the choir’s website). It’s a really friendly choir, and it is fully inclusive. We are non-auditioning. Fernhurst has a population of about 3,000, and for us to sustain a choir of about 80 to 90 on our books represents quite a significant proportion of the population. For a village as small as Fernhurst to turn itself into a centre for choral excellence is really quite something. One of my main jobs as musical director is to build on the work of my predecessors.”
Tickets via the website fernhurstchoralsociety.org.uk or www.wegottickets.com/even.
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