Parodying The Four Seasons hit single, Oh, what a night, late November in ’23, Plymouth Philharmonic Choir’s performance of Handel’s oratorio Samson provided audience members with a very special time, and proved to be an unequivocal hit.
The plot based on the Old Testament story involved betrayal, as Delila cut Samson’s hair whilst he slept, torture, imprisonment, attempted re-seduction and reconciliation, insult, humiliation and destruction in an encounter between sworn enemies.
Soloists Susanna Fairbairn, Kate Symonds-Joy, Matthew Minter and Thomas Humphreys gave outstanding performances. Adopting the persona of the roles, they mesmerised the audience. The aria sung by Thomas Humphreys How willing my paternal love, describing Samson’s father’s longing to be able to care for his son should he be freed, moved some to tears. Sparks flew in the duet Traitor to Love sung by the sparring principal characters. The stand-off between Samson, sung by Matthew Minter, and his tormentor, Harapha, sung by Thomas Humphreys, culminated in the aria Go baffled coward. It was intense and magnificent.
Changing moods and tones
The orchestra were highly adaptive and superbly reflected the many changing moods and tones in the music with consummate skill. Delila’s aria With plaintive notes, where she attempts to re-seduce Samson, sung by Susanna Fairbairn, was exquisite as was the accompaniment by Jonathon Storer, leader of the orchestra. In the famous aria Let the bright Seraphim two elaborate soprano passages were matched to perfection by trumpeter Dave Shead.
Emotion and control
It is staggering that from a starting point where virtually no one in the choir had sung the work, that after 12 weeks, the ensemble delivered another first-rate performance. Undoubtedly this is down to commitment and hard work but layered on top of that is the love that this group have for singing together. They showcased their ability to sing varied styles and moods of music from legato movements to highly articulated passages often with changing tempi, all of which they did with great aplomb. Highlights included Hear us our god, an impassioned plea following an event of death and destruction, which exemplified their ability to sing and convey great emotion but with control and attention to detail in the diction.
This term has presented a number of challenges for Director of Music Christopher Fletcher. Like Samson, who eventually regained full strength, so Christopher, who at one time was unable to conduct, led a wonderful concert and inspired all of the musicians to give of their very best. His creative genius and musical knowledge are the secret ingredients in melding all the separate elements, resulting in a spectacular event.
The final chorus Let their celestial concerts was a fitting way to end the performance with the final notes of Ever to sound his praise in endless morn of light reverberating around the columns of St Andrew’s before being lost into the ether, but not before having made lasting memories for those who were there.
Images courtesy of Howard Perks. Top image: Soloists Susanna Fairbairn, Kate Symonds-Joy, Matthew Minter and Thomas Humphreys
- The Importance of Being… Earnest? Wilde, with a twist - February 28, 2024
- Different by Design | Charlie Dore spring tour - February 26, 2024
- Us Against The World | ‘darkly funny, stunningly visual’ show about domestic abuse - February 16, 2024