Saturday, 29th April 2023
On Saturday 29th April 2023 the Cumbria Singers’ voices resounded throughout Carlisle Cathedral as they performed Haydn’s Creation, the 225th anniversary of its first performance in 1798. They were accompanied by 38 musicians from the British Sinfonietta orchestra, Ed Taylor as organist and soloists Sarah Power (soprano), Austin Gunn (tenor) and Jamie W. Hall (bass) . The concert was conducted by Andrew Padmore.
|Cumbria Singers, soloists and orchestra with conductor Andrew Padmore
Ben Knibbs, Trustee of Carlisle Music Society, was invited to write a review of the concert from the audience perspective. This is what he wrote:
I had the great privilege to be present at the Cumbria Singers’ performance of Haydn’s Creation in the superb and most appropriate setting of Carlisle Cathedral.
I had never heard these singers before, and didn’t quite know what to expect, but what an amazing experience the whole concert proved to be!
From the opening phrases of the orchestral introduction I could tell that the British Sinfonietta, under Andrew Padmore’s enthusiastic lead, was going to do full justice to Haydn’s imaginative orchestration. His tone painting of “Chaos”, although with a certain flavour of dark mystery, wasn’t at all chaotic - with masterful control of their instruments the players produced the loveliest of sounds, a wonderful introduction to the voices.
Jamie Hall began as Raphael, and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard a better voice for this part. What riveting words and music that lead us to the quiet entry of choir, everything holding back until that sublime moment when LIGHT flashes forth - a thrilling explosion of sound from voices and orchestra, finishing with triumphant orchestral fanfares! Wonderful. It was then that the singers first showed what they were capable of.
Austin Gunn’s very attractive tenor voice then continued the narrative as the angel Uriel, taking us into the first aria that culminated in an exciting chorus. This contrasts “despairing, cursing rage” with the rejoicing melody of “a new created world”. The choir beautifully handled this, with power accuracy and above all, beauty.
This was the first of many impressive choruses throughout the work - by turns rousing and exhilarating, or softly expressive.
Sarah Power entered as the angel Gabriel, with a clear and very beautiful voice. I should say here that all three soloists were absolutely excellent - clear, powerful and beautiful - they were perfect, and made the concert very special. They were able to bring out the tenderest, most beautiful parts of the arias exquisitely, and Jamie also enhanced the loveliness of the words and ideas with some delightful humour - surely intended by Haydn himself, judging by some playful and colourful descriptive orchestration.
I’ll also mention here that I found Andrew Padmore’s pacing excellent - I have sometimes found parts of other performances far too fast, and chorus entries rather abrupt; here everything flowed beautifully, it was full of life, exuberant but never rushed.
We continued through several more recitatives and arias, all charming and pleasant, toward the most exciting parts of the work. A rousing tuneful choral song beginning with “Awake the harp”, fabulously rendered by the choir with a superb section in fugue form was the first of these. Then, after an introductory recitative by Uriel’s tenor, came an extraordinary orchestral depiction of the first dawn and the splendorous appearance of the radiant sun - a masterpiece of writing, brilliantly performed. Uriel’s following recitative is also beautifully scored, telling of the sun’s darting rays and tenderly introducing the silver moon.
The grand finale of part one is the famous and spectacular “The Heavens are Telling”. The chorus, orchestra and trio of soloists thrilled the audience with this mighty hymn - simply glorious!
Part two started with a recitative and lovely aria from Gabriel, and Raphael introduced the exquisite trio ‘Most Beautiful Appear”, and it WAS most beautiful: a lovely prelude to the last great chorus before the interval: “The Lord is Great”. I loved the way the chorus sang, with sustained notes, rising to fff, “forever and for evermore”.
The second half began with Haydn’s happy and playful “bringing forth of every living creature”. This is where Jamie (Raphael) and the orchestra brought forth smiles from everyone in the audience - a really outstanding and memorable performance!
Uriel’s melodious aria told of the creation of man and woman and introduced our heavenly choir singing, “in song divine, Achievèd is the Glorious Work” with a very beautiful trio from the soloists in its middle.
The final part of the work had two gorgeous duets with Jamie as Adam and Sarah as Eve, singing of their bliss. The singers so skilfully accompanied the soloists in these especially beautiful moments of the whole oratorio, set in the rosy mantled morning of paradise. A last recitative from Austin (Uriel) briefly mentions that the happy pair “still might happy be if not misled” but that unhappy note was banished by the final, fabulous chorus. The singers and orchestra, with majestic power filled the cathedral with jubilant sound.
The whole audience was obviously delighted and the applause long and loud - BRAVO!!!
|In full voice
A young person’s point of view
Ben’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Imogen, accompanied him to the concert. She asked if she could send us her thoughts. It was the first time she had been inside the Cathedral and she was awestruck by the beauty of the building as well as the music.
|I felt very lucky as I walked into the Cathedral with my grandparents. It was a wonderful setting in which to hear such a piece. I was very pleased that the words were in English as then I could follow along and that made it all the more moving.
When the music began it gave us a glimpse of what was in store. The bass began with a deep rich voice which filled the whole room. The soprano had a beautiful voice too. I didn’t know how the chorus sounded but as soon as it did I knew the choruses would be my favourite bits. The choruses were so loud and beautiful and as they sang the last part the voices sounded so full and joyful.
There were rounds and rounds of applause.
The choir perspective
Choir members were invited to provide a three-word summary of their experience of the performance. Here are some of them:
|A fabulous experience
Andrew Padmore wrote to us on the day after the performance.
I enjoyed yesterday enormously. Everything ‘came together’ wonderfully - the chemistry on stage from soloists, orchestra and choir produced that indefinable quality which made the performance so very special for the audience.
I think for many people in the Cathedral last night (including myself), that was a very happy and artistically fulfilling occasion which will remain in the memory for a very long time.
|An artistically fulfilling occasion
Now Cumbria Singers are looking forward to the next concert on 20th April 2024 when they will once again perform in Carlisle Cathedral with professional soloists. The programme consist of works by Gabriel Fauré (Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine) and Edward Elgar (The Music Makers). We are delighted to have retained as our conductor Andrew Padmore. Accompaniment will be by the British Sinfonietta.