Belfast Telegraph

Review: Theatrical intensity ensures a memorable Messiah at Belfast's Waterfront Hall

By Alf McCreery

The Ulster Orchestra continued its Christmas season on Friday with an impressive performance of The Messiah, with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, at the Waterfront Hall.

For many people, The Messiah is intimately associated with Christmas, as well as Easter, and the annual challenge for the performers is to make it sound fresh. All concerned did so this year, under the direction of the vastly-experienced music director Laurence Cummings, an acknowledged expert on historical performance.

This year’s Messiah had a special briskness and clarity, and an almost theatrical intensity which matched the drama of the Charles Jennens’ comprehensive and familiar text from the Old and New Testaments. The Ulster Orchestra once again underlined its high reputation as a collaborative ensemble, and the soprano Anna Devin was outstanding.

However, the real stars of the performance were the members of the Belfast Phil, now in its 142nd season since its establishment in 1874.

Throughout a performance of great directness and precision, the much-loved choruses of The Messiah swirled around the great hall, including the unforgettable Amen, and the centre-piece Hallelujah Chorus, during which someone behind this reviewer decided to join in tunelessly, but enthusiastically. 

The Ulster Orchestra’s programme continues this week with a lunch-time concert ( 1.05pm) of Christmas music on Thursday, and on that evening “Five Gold Rings - Sing Carols at Christmas“ (7.45pm), both in the Ulster Hall under the baton of Robert Houlihan.

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