Ulverston Choral Society, St Marys Parish Church, Ulverston

“I’VE just sung my first Messiah!” enthused a soprano in the Ulverston Choral Society at the end of the end of the choir’s Christmas concert. I then thought back to December 1958 when I experienced the joy of singing my first Messiah. The Leeds Philharmonic Choir, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and a quartet of soloists that included a “new contralto, Miss Janet Baker” (who “made a good impression”), were all conducted by Herbert Bardgett. It was a memorable occasion and it underlines the remarkable status that this oratorio enjoys; for 270 years there have been countless worldwide experiences like those above; all types of choirs have performed the work; everywhere there is great love for all that it offers.

So it was in Ulverston where Jolyon Dodgson oversaw an evening’s highly-successful music-making. The audience appreciated the choir’s singing which, despite being severely hampered by absence and vocal problems, generally possessed great clarity of tone, brilliance of overall sound and a satisfactory blend and balance. If there was occasional tonal thinness, uncertainty of tempi, lack of word-projection, it was more than counterbalanced by finely-articulated, florid runs and by pulsating, rhythmic contrapuntal textures.

The soloists all contributed in their excellent varying ways to the evening’s drama. Julie Leavett’s clear soprano voice was ideally suited to her role, although a clearer projection of words would have been welcome. Claire Eadington, in fine voice (although not always in her comfort zone as an alto), sang with commendable attention to her music’s dramatic needs. The strong, affirmative recitatives and arias of Austin Gunn (tenor) were matched with equal effect by the stentorian contributions of David Holt (baritone).

Occasional imbalance in the small orchestra (leader, Julian Cann) might have been cured had there been an extra 1st violin, but it performed with stylistic distinction throughout - great pity it was that the players were not acknowledged in the programme.

From the overture’s solemn opening chords through to the glory of the final Amen Chorus this had been a truly emotional and meaningful journey.