The Birmingham Festival Choral Society performance of Elijah on 5th November was a thrilling occasion, with many audience members saying that it was the best BFCS concert they had ever heard! The choir, orchestra and soloists were all on top form, performing to a full house at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre.
We are very grateful to Ian Howarth for this review of the concert
Many thanks also to Alfred White for the photos of a concert to remember.
The role of Elijah was sung with great dramatic effect by opera baritone Byron Jackson. A star performance! Our reviewer said that Byron’s singing of Elijah’s song of despair: ‘It is enough’ was one of the most moving performances that he had ever heard. Byron’s position high above the choir and orchestra increased the drama.
Molly Barker (Jezebel, an angel), Alexandra Wynne (widow, angel), Polly Stirland (youth, angel) and Peter Davoren (Obadiah, Ahab) were also first class. Alexandra’s performance was even more impressive when people realised that she had stepped in at 24 hours notice!
An E mail sent by a member of the audience said that The soloists were ALL superb – and I was brought up on Isobel Baillie and Kathleen Ferrier, spent some of my earliest wages on the recording with Janet Baker, Nicolai Gedda, and Fischer-Dieskau, and have since acquired the Renee Fleming / Bryn Terfel version! The trio and quartets were exquisite, and it was such a good idea to bring the soloists in for the last few bars of the final chorus, not least for the tenors, who will I’m sure have been grateful for the help with that sustained top A after an evening of very hard work.
The trio of angels singing ‘Lift thine eyes to the mountains’ was another highlight of the concert, as shown by the comments on social media below this photo:
Voices from heaven (TP), Spine tingling, absolutely incredible beauty (MF), Beautiful (NW), This was so movingly sung. Absolutely superb. Thank you to the three of you. (JA). A truly wonderful evening. Our friends who attended were ‘blown away’ by the performance with one saying it was the best concert of BFCS’s that he’s attended….(DM)
It was wonderful to sing those big choruses accompanied by the Central England Camerata and Kevin Gill on the organ. The individual instruments brought so much depth to the arias and slow movements too.
Don’t forget the choir, who sang their hearts out, just as their predecessors had done at the Premiere in 1846. We can see why this marvellous work has been such a favourite with choral societies to this day.
Another extract from that Email sent by a member of the audience…
Fantastic performance of Elijah on Saturday night. It’s a work I know well and love greatly, and the trip over from Coventry proved more than worth the effort.
The choir was excellent, and certainly enacted that great rule of performance – make sure you start and end well! That first cry for help and the triumphant final Amen were both exhilarating.
(Click on photos to open in full.)
Finally, a special mention goes to David Wynne, who prepared the choir so well, and brought such a wonderful collection of musicians together to perform under his leadership. Thank you David!