Over 200 performers and 600 audience members filled St Edmundsbury Cathedral for an unusual performance of the world’s most famous oratorio, Handel’s “Messiah”.
It is usually only performed and heard by adults but Richard Hubbard, artistic director of Cantus Firmus Trust and Music Development director for the Cathedral, was inspired to create a performance that would engage children and families, introducing them to the music and the Christian message that is at the heart of “Messiah”.
“Messy Messiah” was highly ambitious in its vision, scope and breadth.
As well as a 53-voice adult choir and 20-piece orchestra there was a children’s choir of over 100 singers drawn from several local primary schools.
Three dance groups, with ages ranging from six to 18, added colourful dance interpretations of the music in the aisles and two groups of children read poetry which they had created for the occasion.
Children from the Cathedral performed a Nativity Scene at the high altar, relayed to the audience via screens, and the Cathedral was filled with banners interpreting the words of the oratorio, created by schools during the term.
The adult Cantus Firmus Choir was drawn from churches across Suffolk and North Essex and was accompanied by Cantus Firmus Sinfonietta, in which professional musicians were joined by young players for whom this would have been their first experience of performing this work.
The various sections of the piece were introduced by means of a creative dialogue between Mr Handel and his librettist, Mr Jennens, in full baroque costume. They had visited each of the schools in recent weeks to lead assemblies introducing the music.
The combined choirs and orchestra were conducted by the Cathedral’s director of music, Timothy Parsons, who, with his colleague Richard Cook, had visited each school throughout the term to teach the music as part of the Cathedral’s Singing Schools project.
The schools and groups involved were:
- Abbots Green Academy
- Barrow CEVC Primary School
- Cavendish CEVC Primary School
- Cockfield CEVC Primary School
- Dancing Sparkes Junior Dance Academy
- Guildhall Feoffment Community Primary School
- Ickworth Park Primary School
- Kersey CEVC Primary School
- Moulton CEVC Primary School
- South Lee Prep School
- St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choristers and Junior Church
- St Mary’s CEVC Primary Academy, Mildenhall
- Tollgate Primary School
- Thurston Performing Arts Xzilar8 Dance Company
- Wood Ley Community Primary School, Stowmarket
along with Cantus Firmus Choir and Sinfonietta.