Angmering Chorale and the Sinfonia of Arun in Arundel Cathedral - review

The concert
The concert

REVIEW BY Jim Hurdwell

“As God the Lord of Israel liveth, before whom I stand: There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”

The Prophet Elijah, Baritone soloist Felix Kemp, warned the Israelites that drought would continue until they abandoned the graven images of Baal. Given the very wet weather outside Arundel Cathedral, it was clear that pious folk had complied…… fully!

Angmering Chorale, the Sinfonia of Arun and four super professional soloists combined, under George Jones’s baton, to perform Mendelssohn’s magnificent oratorio, Elijah. First heard over 170 years ago, this work is an oft-performed choral masterpiece.

After the introduction, the orchestral overture, comprising 40 players, embraced all the drama that would follow. The 90 strong chorus, representing the People, implored the Almighty to end their plight and Obadiah, sung by tenor Richard Pinkstone, re-iterated what they must do to succeed.

Mezzo-soprano soloist, Catherine Carby, donning the mantle of angel, instructed Elijah to find succour at Cherith’s Brook where a double quartet from the Chorale greeted him and offered their protection. The Chorale is blessed indeed with some fine soloists and they sounded heavenly.

At the angel’s bidding, Elijah met with a widow, exquisitely portrayed by soprano Sally Harrison, miraculously saving her dying son.

Elijah then demonstrated the people’s misplaced faith when, however loud, louder and even louder (VERY loud!) they called, no fire came for a sacrifice to Baal. At Elijah’s bidding, however, fire did descend from Heaven and the Prophets of Baal were duly dispatched!

Harrison now assumed the role of a child sent several times in search of rain and, eventually, God obliged prompting the people’s thanks and affirmation of their faith in the Almighty.

His job complete, Elijah would surely be exalted? Not so! - Queen Jezebel (Carby) menacingly incited the crowd, calling for his slaughter for all the damage he’d wreaked on everyone. He had prophesied against their very existence and brought drought and famine to their land. The crowd echoed their approval as she reeled off his crimes - they’d heard it with their own ears!

Obadiah advised Elijah to flee for his life and another delightful trio of ladies from the Chorale urged him to lift his eyes to the mountains to seek God’s help. Catherine Carby, now back to being an angel, delighted us with the best known aria from this work, O rest in the Lord.

The chorus graphically described a raging tempest, earthquake and fire demonstrating God’s power and might. Following all this came a “still small voice” from whence came the Lord and, after that, a beautiful, tranquil quartet singing Holy, holy, holy.

A fiery chariot and horses took Elijah to his rightful place in Heaven. The final chorus affirmed God’s Glory.

Throughout this memorable evening, we enjoyed outstanding contributions from everyone. The audience duly showed their heartfelt appreciation and delight and, what is more, the rain stopped for our homeward journey!

Jim Hurdwell

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