Keswick Choral Society, Theatre by the Lake

THERE could hardly be a more appropriate siting for a performance of Haydn’s oratorio than Keswick's Theatre by the Lake. Any one of us standing in awe as we view the mountains, valleys, streams and lakes may well wonder how did all this happen and what is my origin.

Haydn’s The Creation offers an answer to our wondering and its authority derives from the opening of the Old Testament and perhaps also Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. It has been said, justly, that The Creation is "a statement of warm optimism about the world and our place in it, clothed in some of the most gorgeous music of music's golden age." It is recorded that the wild applause which was accorded to The Creation on its performance in 1808 may have cost the elderly composer his life "for he was so overcome that he had to be carried from the concert room and revived."

The Keswick audience, if not quite overcome, were enthralled by the performance. Under the director of KCS musical director/conductor Ian Hare, the choir, and the Cumbria Classical Players were masterfully led by Mark Wilson. The exceptional soloists, Susanna Fairbairn, Richard Phillips, Brian Bannatyne-Scott with continuo Mike Town, gave a thrilling and exhilarating experience. The performance had great tenderness and spiritual depth. Haydn's Angels related a tale of triumph. The story was one of success, illumination blazing out of darkness, "this world, so great, so wonderful." Haydn shows men and women in eternally lovely surroundings-idyllic- a pastoral with no intimation of the Serpent and the Fall. Adam and Eve’s characterisation was a delight. Eve is uncompromising - "Life and all I have is thine." Adam is unequivocal: "Every moment brings new rapture." All the performers related the story with great conviction and passion.

As one earlier reviewer put it, "it seems apt that a work of such joy and reveries - composed in a period of war, political turmoil, and rapid scientific technological advancement - should be performed and relished with abandon at this moment in time."

There was a contemporary feel to this production. Ian Hare and all who were involved in this performance of the oratorio must be congratulated, not least for that final resonance of the chorus in praise of God:

"Let every voice sing unto the Lord!

"Thank him for all his works!"

Sublime! How lucky we are to live in Cumbria and have KCS which offers so much pleasure and enlightenment for us all! The brightness of the full moon which greeted the audience as they left the theatre was a fitting confirmation of their wonder of The Creation.