Handel’s Messiah, South Holland Singers, St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding
In the 70-year history of the South Holland Singers, only five men have picked up the baton as the choir’s conductor and musical director.
Saturday marked the end of the road, or final note, for current choirmaster Robin Carter, who guided a 75-strong choir, plus 16 members of the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, through arguably the greatest of all choral pieces.
Handel’s Messiah, composed in 1741 and taking Anglo-German classical legend George Frideric Handel just 24 days to complete, soared across Spalding’s St Mary and St Nicolas Church as a deeply reverential audience embraced the magnificence of the music. Of course, Robin’s send-off would have been incomplete without the return of some very special friends in the persons of guest soloists Alex Aldren (tenor), James Geidt (bass), Hannah Poulsom (mezzo-soprano) and Carrie-Ann Williams (soprano).
The choice of music itself was significant in that 70 years ago, the very first incarnation of South Holland Singers set off on a long, enchanting voyage with the very same Handel’s Messiah.
On that occasion, at a time of post-World War II austerity, the implementation of the Beveridge Report and women being admitted to Cambridge University for the first time, it was founding conductor Russell Missen who guided his charges through the high octaves and low clefs of Handel’s enduring classic.
But what made Saturday’s performance so unique was the businesslike manner in which Robin, the choir, soloists and musicians all went about their task.
No time for tears, no pausing for waves, no intervals for hankies – just Handel’s Messiah in all its magnificence.
Split into three parts, there was time for a new appreciation of the choral epic that is so much more than the Hallejuah Chorus.
In short, everyone who performed on Saturday did justice to Handel’s work and only at the end was there time to recognise the significance of Robin’s last night as musical leader of the South Holland Singers.
It’s been a wonderful experience and a chance of a lifetime which has enabled me to fulfil all the dreams I ever had as a young manRobin Carter, outgoing musical director, South Holland Singers
After the concert, Robin said: “It’s been a wonderful experience and a chance of a lifetime which has enabled me to fulfil all the dreams I ever had as a young man.
“I’ve always loved classical music and so to conduct Handel’s Messiah, with this choir and orchestra, is the culmination of a music dream and I shall have it in my head for years to come.”
Tess Murison, chairman of South Holland Singers, said: “It was a fantastic last concert with Robin, but it’s very sad as well that he’s leaving.
“Robin has really encouraged all the choir members because we’re not an auditioning choir.
“Yet Robin had coaxed and encouraged people to get the best out of their voices which has been great for all the choir members.
“When you look at the history of the choir, a lot of the music sung wasn’t as choral as Messiah.
“But slowly, Robin has given us the confidence to sing and in January, our rehearsals will include Vivaldi’s Gloria in a new year of new musical director Geoff Ellerby leading us.”
Soprano Sophia Tibbs, the youngest choir member aged just 16, said: “Saturday evening was such a wonderful experience.
“It was the first time I had sung in a choir with an orchestra before and it was an experience I will never forget.
“I had sung a few pieces from Messiah previously on a Royal School of Church Music course in Bath but being able to sing it again, and with an orchestra, was amazing.
“It is so good to have a local choir to go to which has many amazing singers and, of course, Robin.
“Although I was only in South Holland Singers a term before Robin sadly left, I have learned a great deal from him and both his accuracy and perfection in pieces has helped me to develop further in my singing and understanding of pieces, particularly Messiah.
“I am very grateful to both Robin and the members of the choir who made me feel so welcome and I hope to return in the New Year with new Musical Director Geoff Ellerby.
“I am sad though that I only got to spend a term with the choir under Robin’s charge because he is such a good, talented musical director and from what I have seen he really helped the choir to grow and develop during his time leading them. “Robin works so hard on these concerts and it really pays off because it helps give both choir members, orchestra members and the audience a fantastic experience.
“Thank you once again Robin and I will always keep in mind some tips you have given to the choir when I perform and treasure my first amazing concert with the South Holland Singers.”
Review and interview by Winston Brown