This concert marks a special point in the history of Falkirk Festival Chorus for their conductor and founder, Bob Tait, will be retiring as its musical director.
He founded the choir back in 1974 and it is appropriate to mark the occasion with Handel’s Messiah, the work they first performed then.
This version in Falkirk Trinity Church, uses as backing, organ, string quartet and trumpet.
The concert started with the strings and organ playing Synfonia with the clear sound filling the hall.
The concert continued with recitatives from soloists intermixed with airs and choruses.
The choir demonstrated its prowess with long phrases and some truly glorious singing as the work progressed, with the soloists carrying the recits often with cello and organ continuo.
The tenor, Kenneth Reid, expressed his solos with long clear lines and the bass, Phil Gault, carried his part with rich drama.
Laura Margaret Smith, the alto, rose through the chorus in splendid style in “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion” and the soprano, Alison McNeill, soared through her solos with an effortless bright sound.
I was greatly taken with “He shall feed his flock” where the alto’s tune was taken up by the soprano in a transposed key.
The chorus work was admirable particularly in the tricky fugal passages which they pulled off with some aplomb and the first part finished with the rousing air “He shall feed his flock.”
Part two opened with a rousing chorus “Behold the lamb of God” followed by a subdued and sensitive alto solo.
As the work continued, its progression was expertly steered by the instruments of the ensemble.
Alasdair Tait, cello and Robin Bell, organ, expertly and sensitively guided the recits and the responsive playing of the whole band with Benjamin Baker and Savitri Grier (violins) and Charlotte Bonneton (viola) gave empathetic support to the whole ensemble.
This part ended with the big number “The Hallelujah Chorus” much brightened by the sound of the trumpet played by Mark O’Keefe.
All this was brought together by the expert musical direction of Robert Tait.
During the performance his clear conducting and handling of the ensemble is to be greatly admired and its success is reflected in the triumph of this performance.
The concert was greatly enjoyed by the audience which applauded loud and long and at the end gave Bob and his team a standing ovation – perhaps a brief reflection of all he has done for the promotion of music in the area.
Enjoy your well-earned retirement!