Portsmouth Choral Union – “Messiah delights its audience”

16 December 2023, St Mary’s, Portsea

Over three hundred people gathered together in the middle of December? Fratton Park? No. In that glorious building, St Mary, Fratton. An audience of over 200 met to hear a choir of 75 supported by an orchestra of 20 held together by Ringmaster, David Gostick. This was Portsmouth Choral Union’s 82nd performance of “Messiah”.

Popular since its debut in 1742, it was also a musical turning point. The Oratorio was operatic – but with a narrator, the Evangelist, supplanting the acting. Much more appropriate for Biblical themes performed in churches.

Misquoting Gerard Offnung, there is a thin Messiah [the Early Music Movement] or a fat Messiah [the Mozart edition – Radio 3 this week]. Between lie most amateur performances. Supported ably by professional musicians, the Southern Pro Musica and Ian Richardson and the four soloists, the choir had a firm base from which to start. Nick Sharratt was our Evangelist , Edwin Kaye our dark and then raging Bass, Rebecca Lodge Birkbaek told us good tidings whilst Luci Briginshaw rejoiced greatly.

The choir were stronger and more confident in their louder moments but they had certainly learnt to be fleet of foot. I liked David’s tempi – but the choir did need to be literally on their toes sometimes to keep up. Bach and Handel both do trumpets and drums well and, because these were modern instruments, Clarini trumpets added to sparkle at the appropriate points.

What is the point of any concert? To send the audience away happy. That was a success then! The loud and enthusiastic applause said it all. Messiah number 82 told us that “Under David Gostick, PCU continues to enjoy its singing and to delight its audience”.

David Oldfield

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