Concert review by Robin Gregory:
Jozik Kotz (pronounce that Yewjik, approximately) has been Musical Director of Hailsham Choral Society for more than a decade. His choir is, by now, undoubtedly one of the finest in this area; and a double-dose of Handel at All Saints Church on March 25th certainly bore out this judgment.
One of the works performed (Messiah) is well-known, though there are very many alternative ways of playing it. The other (Dettingham Te Deum) is seldom heard, so it was well-judged to describe the work's background in a nicely-produced 12-page programme. Wise, too, to place Dettingham before the interval, thus enabling the audience to go home with the Hallelujah Chorus ringing in their ears.
Handel planned this Te Deum as a grand celebration of a British victory over the French in July 1743. Unfortunately its first performance was five months delayed, and took place in the tiny Chapel Royal of St James's Palace. We were privileged to hear it in the relatively spacious acoustic of All Saints Church. Choir, orchestra and soloists showed throughout that they had assimilated the composer's grand intentions. The strings , led by Brian Knights, seemed to relish a work which was probably new to most of them, and there was some fine solo trumpet in “Thou art the King of Glory”, “Day by Day” and “In Thee have I Trusted”. The substantial solos for bass voice were commandingly delivered by Daniel Jordan, who never seemed to suffer the problems of a baritone singing a bass role. Rebecca Anstey (mezzo-soprano, but singing contralto) brought great beauty of tone to the concluding section of a work we should hear more often.
Messiah Part Two showed the performers on home territory. The choir was responsive to every nuance of Jozik's conducting, with the balance between male and female voices perfect. There were a few surprises: for example “He was cut off” and the following “But thou didst not leave” were shown on the programme as to be sung by the soprano, but in fact were projected by the magnificent tenor voice of Stephen Rooke. Catrin Woodruff was, however, able to display her high, bright soprano voice in “Thou art gone up” and “How beautiful are the feet”. The exquisite aria “He was despised” enabled Rebecca to produce her most tender tone with real feeling: something rare in big oratorios. Stephen's fine tenor-sound (more Pavarotti than Heddle Nash) was heard again in “Thy Rebuke” and “Behold and See”.
Evenings like this don't happen by chance. They need ample focussed rehearsal, and no doubt their rehearsal pianist Colin Hughes had contributed his musical skills on many occasions. He played keyboard continuo at the performance.
The choir will be singing Stainer's Crucifixion on April 14th at Hailsham Parish Church, and Rutter's Magnificat in the Civic Community Hall on July 1st. We eagerly look forward to their next appearance in Eastbourne.