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A wintry Messiah
A performance of Handel's Messiah on 4 December 2010 went ahead despite severe winter weather
Account by Peter Harbord
(Part of this article appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 10 December 2010)

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A full-scale performance of Handel’s Messiah went ahead in Northallerton on Saturday 4 December 2010, despite the snow and ice.  The Chorus, the Mowbray Orchestra, four professional soloists and an audience of more than 150 all braved the freezing conditions to get to All Saints Church for the concert.  The bass soloist, Dominic Barberi, travelled by train from Edinburgh.  “I was in constant touch with him by mobile phone and texts” said the Chorus’s secretary, Ann Hutchings.  “There were alterations to the train service and we didn’t know what time he would arrive or which station we would have to meet him from, but luckily he made it just in time for the rehearsal in the afternoon.”

“We were really reluctant to cancel the concert” said Hazel Sumsion, chair of the Chorus. “A lot of planning and preparation had gone into it, and our performances of Messiah are eagerly anticipated by our supporters.  In the end several people who had been going to other events which were cancelled came to ours instead.”  Members of the committee and their families rallied round to clear the access paths to the church and carry in staging and other equipment.  “It was a magnificent team effort and showed a true Yorkshire spirit!” said Hazel.  “We would like to thank everyone who came to concert and made all our efforts feel so worthwhile.”
The 80-plus members of the Chorus hail from all parts of the county and many live in remote rural areas.  Some were unwilling to risk a difficult return journey after the concert and others were literally snowed in.  David Higgins, a member of the bass section, sent hisSnow at Commondale apologies in the form of a dramatic photograph taken at his home in Commondale (right ).  Only 40 Chorus members were actually present, with several suffering from colds and coughs which in normal circumstances would have prevented them from singing.  “Fortunately there was a reasonable balance between the voices” said Greg Smith, the Chorus’s Musical Director, who conducted the concert.  “We managed to draft in a couple of extra singers at the last moment to strengthen the tenor section and everybody did a really fantastic job.  The sound was quite magnificent for a small choir.”

Friends of Ann Hutchings came all the way from Stanhope in Weardale to attend the concert.  “They enjoyed it very much,” she said “but they were glad that they had opted to stay with me rather than attempt to travel back!”  Peter and Diana Lee from Northallerton, who were also in the audience, were full of praise for the efforts of the musicians.  “You would not have known that only half the choir was there” they said.  “It was a wonderful evening and we really appreciated all the efforts that ensured it went ahead.”
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