Handel’s Messiah: Meet the Soloists

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On 20th April, Chester Bach Singers are performing Handel’s Messiah – a special fundraising concert conducted by Martin Bussey and accompanied by Graham Eccles, arguably the finest organist in Northwest England and North Wales.

This glorious oratorio gives us the opportunity to feature solo performances by a number of our choir members, some of whom already have fond memories of Handel’s best loved work.

Standing Left to Right: Veronica Ierston, Sean Tighe, Anna Saunders, Hannah Symons, Kristine Jenkins, Linda Curran, Ian Mander, Matthew Pace, Clive Nicholson, Tom Rozario, Tom Salmon. Sitting: Imogen Parsley, Natasha Hendrickse-Welsh.

Many of the choir have a long association with the piece. As Clive Nicholson recalls, “I’ve sung Messiah more times than I have fingers to count on. But I have a feeling that this year may be the 50th anniversary of my first Messiah!”

For Sean Tighe and Ian Mander, the memories go back to their days as boy choristers. Ian recalls that he first sang Messiah “as a treble at St Mary’s choir in Warwick at the ripe old age of 9. It was also the first thing I sang after I’d had a break from singing and come back as a tenor.” Sean had an equally early start. “The first time I sang it I was 12 – a boy soprano. This is now the fifth time I’ve done Messiah ... and I’ve done solos in it three times.”

For Veronica Ierston, the first Messiah solo was particularly memorable. “It was a very, very cold evening and I had to sit there through the first and second parts in my coat – then take off my coat and get up to sing this one piece then go straight back to my place and put my coat back on!”

Tom Salmon, on the other hand, had a very different first solo – as probably the loudest member of the orchestra! “The first time I sang Messiah was at school. And I also remember it was my job to play the timpani in the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. It was great fun ... but my only ever performance as a timpanist!”

Hannah Symons has particularly fond memories of her first performance. “I first sang Messiah back in 2014 in Winchester cathedral. A sold-out performance and a standing ovation at the end. One of the most incredible performances I’ve ever been part of, so it’s got a very special place in my heart.”

And for Natasha Hendrickse Welsh this performance will be a return to very familiar territory, “I first sang Messiah when I was about 16 – and I think it may have been under this self-same conductor!”

Chair of Chester Back Singers, Helen Crich, explained why this fundraising performance is so important to the choir, saying that “as well as striving to achieve the highest standards in our performances, we are also proud to have consistently delivered in three other important areas.

“First, is our commitment to raise the profile of works by women and contemporary composers. Second, is to support and encourage the next generation of young choral talent. And third, is to perform a large-scale choral work at least once every two years.

“Each of these requires us to raise additional funding above and beyond the subscriptions paid by choir members and concert ticket sales. So, I would like to thank everyone who has bought a ticket to Messiah or given a donation to the choir – every penny you have given will make a real difference. Thank you.”

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