Good Friday, April 14th 2017
This year's traditional Good Friday concert at Leeds Minster commemorated the 275th Anniversary of the first hearing of Handel's 'Grand Sacred Oratorio' at Dublin's Great Music Hall, on 13th April 1742.
The legendary Dr Simon Lindley - he has now conducted well over 100 performances of Messiah - was again at the helm. Good Friday's very special occasion fittingly restored the versions of several numbers actually used at the Dublin premiere but omitted from later performances.
Dr Lindley's interpretations invariably combine a scholarly approach to vocal and instrumental detail with immense vigour and pristine freshness. The great choruses had sufficient heft but also a textural lightness and suppleness of phrasing. St Peter's Singers projected the lines with startling clarity. All we like sheep have gone astray and Lift up your heads, O ye gates had incredible buoyancy and rhythmic energy. The vocal soloists - soprano Christina James, altos Lucy Appleyard and Claire White-Mckay, tenor Ranald McCusker and bass Quentin Brown are section principals of St Peter's Singers. They significantly contributed to the integrated "ensemble feel" of this performance. For me, the tonal purity of McCusker's arias and recitatives made the greatest impression.
The ever versatile members of the National Festival Orchestra led by Sally Robinson accompanied with feeling and sensitivity including a beautifully poised 'Pastoral Symphony'. Alan Horsey and David Holder provided the stylish harpsichord and chamber organ continuo. The bass pedals of the famous organ of Leeds Minster bolstered an eye-pricking rendition of the stupendous Hallelujah Chorus.