Review by Judith Caldwell
Last evening (Monday)at St. Patrick’s Church in Hamilton the Brott Music Festival presented Handel’s Messiah featuring the National Academy Orchestra of Canada; the Arcady Choir and soloists Leslie Ann Bradley– soprano; Pamela Mac Donald, alto; tenor Michael Colvin, and Gordon Bintner, baritone.
After reviewing several recent concerts of unfamiliar music it was very nice to be able to relax into the lovely sounds of Handel’s work, a Christmas perennial on the concert circuit even though it’s content makes it seem more suitable to Easter.
Messiah is clearly an audience favourite as two sold-out shows for the event attest and the acoustics at St. Patrick’s are among the reasons Maestro Brott chose to return there again this year.
The orchestra achieved a genuine baroque sound that took us back in time, and the choir had a clarity of diction and enunciation that meant we could easily follow the text – something that is far too often lacking in choral works. There was also a marvellous clarity to the movement of emphasis from soprano to tenor to alto to bass in the big set pieces like ‘For unto us a Child is born’ and ‘And He shall purify’. The orchestra demonstrated that it could offer full support to the big choral pieces or play delicately as in the soprano solo ‘There were shepherds abiding in the fields’.
The soloists were brilliant. Bradley has a soaring soprano voice which she controls beautifully, especially in the difficult trilling passages. MacDonald has a rich alto that is sensitive, measured, and mature. Colvin’s lovely tenor voice can soar and roar… he can add surprising fullness to a note when necessary or can sound pain-filled as in ‘Thy rebuke has broken His heart’. Gordon Bintner is amazing, he sounds like a young Bryn Terfel – only he is much better looking! I heard Terfel in Wales when he was about 19 and then he had a lovely voice that needed training. Bintner’s training is well under way and he has a voice that is rich and full and sounds effortless (a sure sign of good training). I am sure we will be hearing much more from this young man in future. He was clearly an audience favourite too.
This Messiah was thoughtful and nuanced, with a brisk pace sometimes; lyrical and lilting at others. It could be mellow and measured; lilting and hopeful; slow and pain filled; delicate or all-out show stopping exuberant as in the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. The musical difference in colour and tone moved us through this familiar story with clarity and grace – it was musical story-telling at its best.