Prom 68, Northern Sinfonia/McGegan, Royal Albert Hall, London

5.00

Two things are often forgotten about the ‘Messiah: that it was actually written for Easter, not Christmas, and that its original audience would have been very well-heeled - seats at ten shillings and sixpence were the equivalent of top-price opera seats today.

Only in Victorian England did it become the quintessential expression of the amateur choral tradition, sometimes involving as many as 4,000 singers - a remarkable thought, considering how musically taxing it is, with the final ‘Amen’ alone being an intricate riot of polyphony and counterpoint.

The version which conductor Nicholas McGegan brought to the Proms was the apotheosis of that tradition, but the regular quartet of soloists was complemented by hundreds of young co-stars, each of whose regional battalions deserves mention. So step forward the CBSO Youth Orchestra, the Halle Youth Choir, the Quay Voices from Gateshead, the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir, the Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir, and the National Youth Choirs of Britain and Wales. You made a wonderful sound, with a lightness and freshness one never hears from more physically mature outfits. And you negotiated your rapidly ornamented melodic lines with entirely professional precision. I have never heard a more uplifting ‘Messiah’, or a choral event which more perfectly answered the requirements of the auditorium’s vast space.

McGegan may be a period-performance man, but his tempi had no period fussiness: what he brought out was the sheer drama of the work, in which almost every chorus and aria is an emotional roller-coaster. I found it initially hard to accept Dominique Labelle’s soprano - she seemed to switch between two very different timbres - but the other soloists were superb throughout. Patricia Bardon’s mezzo had a gliding silkiness which made a lovely foil to John Mark Ainsley’s exquisite tenor and Matthew Rose’s perfectly-projected bass. Every so often, in this 130-minute marathon, we got a moment of magic: ethereal calm as the female soloists sang ‘He shall feed his flock’; Ainsley singing ‘They rebuke hath broken his heart’ with poise and plangency; Rose thundering ‘The trumpet shall sound’ while a real trumpet sounded a golden fanfare beside him; meanwhile the Northern Sinfonia’s playing was a constant delight.

The entire hall stood in time-honoured manner for the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’: it was nice to be informed by Aled Jones, in a prefatory speech, that Radio 3 has a plan to get the whole nation singing that chorus by Christmas.

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments