REVIEW: Elijah – Mendelssohn North London Chorus St James’s Church Muswell Hill

PUBLISHED: 14:03 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

Another cold, wet and windy night. Another cracking concert from a cracking local chorus. Elijah, Mendelssohn s second oratorio, was chosen by the North London Chorus in recognition of the 200th anniversary of his birth. That he died aged only 38 prompts

Another cold, wet and windy night. Another cracking concert from a cracking local chorus.

Elijah, Mendelssohn's second oratorio, was chosen by the North London Chorus in recognition of the 200th anniversary of his birth. That he died aged only 38 prompts the question what greatness he would have created had he lived on. The opening of the piece is a funereal dirge - all woodwind and brass and the dark, sepulchral tones of Roland Wood's wonderful bass-baritone. Then, Jaws like, onto the string-based Overture and the first, wonderful noises from the chorus - Help Lord. Following the recitative, the sensational Janis Kelly (house soprano) and Madeleine Shaw (mezzo-soprano) gave the duet Zion spreadeth her hands with beautiful and measured support from NLC.

The piece draws its inspiration and words from fragments of Books of the Old Testament. It is littered with characters with fabulous names - Obadiah, Baal, Ahab, Jeroboam and Jezebel - rarely heard on the lips of nursing Yummy Mummies in the Crouch End Starbucks, but it's only a matter of time.

In the past, NLC have been too underpowered in the ratio of male to female voices but on Saturday they had several bass and tenors appearing as guests and it gave them much more oomph. Their diction and crispness of delivery is excellent and made it easy to follow the action. They gave fine support to the excellent soloists without ever swamping them.

As ever, the North London Orchestra turned in an fabulous performance. Elijah is a longish piece and offers some memorable and sensitive sections that allow the chorus to show just how well their confidence and technique is developing under conductor Murray Hipkin.

Murray is clearly a very talented and, probably, more importantly, passionate conductor and musician. It was therefore, odd to see how little interaction there seemed to be between Murray and the 80 or so members of the chorus. Several times when they got to their feet to sing, there was no visible acknowledgement from him that they were actually there! Too often, his eyes were drawn to his music stand and not to his singers.

However, towards the end of the work, interaction, direction and encouragement was much more evident - he really worked the chorus and they responded with a more intense and driven rendition.

But perhaps the star of the evening was the young treble Charlie Manton. A wonderful voice and a calm, confident presence.

Their next concert in March looks a corker - Bach, Buxtehude and Handel. Visit www.north londonchorus.org.uk for details.

Dave Winskill


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