The Trumpet, and Trombone! Shall Sound

We have another Eastertide Messiah in the city on the 8th of April following a Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus performance of the work a fortnight earlier with period instruments.

However, this one, at the outset of Holy Week – Palm Sunday is the next day – will sound very different.

It is a ‘Come and Sing’ performance, an invitation extended to everyone from the Sheffield Bach Choir whose annual December performance of Handel’s oratorio entered Sheffield folklore many years ago. Alternatively, you can just go and listen.

The occasion marks the 275th anniversary of the work’s first performance in Dublin in 1742. Almost to the day, actually: the 13th of April being when it first saw the light of day!

It also offers an opportunity, if not a major selling bullet point, to hear a rather rare outing for Messiah in the brass band ‘orchestration’ by Denis Wright, a transcription first heard in 1946 but not too often since.

Given the universal popularity of the work across all spectrums of society, it is perhaps surprising that it had to wait 200 years to be reincarnated in the world of brass bands, especially given their festive prominence at Christmas.

How Messiah came to be indelibly associated with aforementioned consumer season is buried somewhere in the mists of time. It’s as much an Easter work as it is a Christmas one; indeed, can be argued to be more so!

Note when Handel premiered it, although he had completed the work in September of the previous year – plenty of time for Christmas of 1741!

Denis Wright (1895-1967) was associated with brass bands virtually all his life, conducting them, composing test pieces for competitions and making hundreds of transcriptions and arrangements.

He was responsible for all brass band broadcasts on the BBC for nearly ten years from 1936 and worked indefatigably to gain greater recognition for brass bands generally and especially in other domains of music.

One cannot imagine Handel objecting to a brass band transcription of Messiah. He altered the work just about every time it was performed in his day – re-orchestrating, tweaking this and that, re-allocating recits and arias, altering or adding an aria here and there, and so on.

He is said to have left nine different versions of Messiah, none of them definitive, which include 43 versions of 15 solo numbers!

The Bach Choir’s Come and Sing Messiah with professional soloists, the Rothwell Temperance Band and conducted by Simon Lindley is at Sheffield Cathedral and starts at 7pm.

Further information at www.sheffieldbachchoir.wordpress.com

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