A well-deserved standing ovation

Hastings Philharmonic Choir, Haydn’s Oratorio The Creation, Christchurch St Leonards. Saturday, November 17. Review by Marrion Wells.

MANY great composers found inspiration in London, Handel, Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn to mention but a few. Haydn’s recollection, however, was unique. A man of supreme religious faith, his lasting memory was of a visit to Westminster Abbey, this being recognised when he was 63, with one of the most monumental works of all time, his Oratorio The Creation.

Scored for orchestra, chorus and soloists, its 33 themes each represent one aspect of how the composer imagined the world began. Brought to life by a choir of more than 80 singers, including a strong male section, an orchestra of 30 professional musicians, and renowned soloists soprano Louise Alder, tenor Alberto Sousa, and baritone Morgan Pearse, Hastings Philharmonic’s new young director Marcio da Silva made a striking debut in welding this vast company of performers into an inspiring whole.

Part One, the overture, longer than most, portrayed the origins of life with the title Representation of Chaos, depicting the earth’s gradual awakening. The strings, timpani and brass formed a background to the voice of Raphael (the baritone role) with the choir in support, until the moment when with the words ‘then there was LIGHT’ marked by the orchestra with a thunderous major chord, the attention was assured of every member of the large audience.

The story of the earth’s formation was revealed with soprano Louise as Gabriel, tenor Alberto as Uriel joining Morgan as Raphael, to lead the chorus in detailing the assimilation of the differing parts of the earth.

Part Two described the practical aspects of the production of life.

In recitative and arias the three soloists told how the various parts were formed, beginning with Gabriel’s description of the mighty oceans, Raphael amplifying this with whales representing animal life, of the Angels, the choir endorsing this with the cry, The Lord is Great. This proceeded to the pinnacle And God created Man, from Alberto as Uriel, the sequence ending with the choir praising the Lord’s achievements.

Part Three took the example of Adam and Eve as illustration of God’s supreme achievement. For this Louise took the role of Eve and Morgan that of Adam. The overall tone of this section was obviously lighter. The choir joined for the finale with the invocation Sing Ye Voices All, ending the performance to a well-deserved standing ovation.

Marcio must surely be gratified that his first major presentation here was so deservedly received.