Sunday 10th December 2017 at 7.30pm, Great Hall, Dartington
The choir is pleased to announce that this Christmas it will bring one of the most popular works in the choral repertoire to the Dartington Great Hall.
Under the direction of Simon Capet, the choir’s Music Director, and accompanied by his orchestra the Dartington Sinfonietta led by Mary Eade, the choir will perform Mendelssohn’s fiery and impassioned oratorio Elijah’. Soloists Catherine Hamilton (soprano), Alison Kettlewell (mezzo-soprano), James Way (tenor) and Darren Jeffery (bass-baritone) complete the concert’s line-up of performers.
This is a work of dramatic extremes, from fire and brimstone to moments of sublimity and wonder. The choir will sing in English, just as when Mendelssohn premiered Elijah’ at Birmingham Town Hall in 1846 – its first performance by nearly 300 singers was dazzlingly successful, after rehearsals that were described as frenzied.
Drawn from episodes in the Old Testament, the oratorio shows the prophet Elijah struggling to rescue his people in Israel from the worship of pagan gods, to bring them to faith in his one true God.
The first part begins with Elijah’s prophecy of a terrible drought, as punishment for their pagan decadence. Driven into hiding in the desert, he later returns to challenge the followers of Baal, and when their false god fails them in some of the oratorio’s most dramatic scenes, they repent and turn to the true god, who then sends torrential rain.
In the second part, Elijah still has to confront the people’s pagan rulers, and once again flees to the desert; but after a time of loneliness and introspection there, he has a vision of the Lord and finally ascends to heaven in a chariot of fire, taken up by a whirlwind.
This oratorio looks back towards Bach and Handel, whom Mendelssohn passionately admired, but also forward into developing Romanticism. However, the work took its toll on Mendelssohn: exhausted by intense composition and rehearsals, he died just over a year after the premiere, aged 38. It could be said to be his own requiem, as he identified a great deal with Elijah, someone troubled by decadence and emptiness in contemporary society. The work is loved for its outstanding complexity and virtuosity as much as for its emotional power and beauty.
Tickets (£18; students/U16s £7.50) are available from the Dartington Box Office (01803 847 070 or by emailing the firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip R Buttall
(The photo caption is: Top row (L-R) Catherine Hamilton / Alison Kettlewell Bottom Row (L-R) James Way / Darren Jeffrey)