Billingshurst Choral Society presents Mendelssohn’s masterpiece

Cathal Garvey

Cathal Garvey

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Billingshurst Choral Society offer Mendelssohn’s Elijah for their next concert at Billingshurst Leisure Centre on Saturday, April 8 (7.30pm).

Under conductor Cathal Garvey, the singers are relishing all the challenges it will bring.

They will be joined by The London Ulysses Orchestra, plus soprano Mia Huhta, mezzo soprano Sidonie Winter, tenor Andrew McKenzie Wicks and baritone Paul Carey Jones.

Jenny Searle, from the society’s publicity committee, said: “Being a fairly large choir we are able to take on these chunky works and give the audience a deeply-emotive experience. Essentially a Romantic composer, Mendelssohn gives us delicate light and deep shade and some wonderful lyrical choruses. There’s also a Bach, early classical influence running through his work, making it so distinctive.

“Elijah is a very interesting piece because it sits between the baroque of Bach and Handel. Mendelssohn was very interested in Bach and Handel, but this was the last great oratorio because the tradition ended with this. Subsequently the movement was more romantic and then the First World War cut through everything and Mendelssohn went out of favour. It is a very interesting piece and it is also very interesting in terms of Mendelssohn’s life. It was the culmination of all his life’s work and he died the year after. The piece was phenomenally well received at the time. I think there were calls for an encore after four of the choruses, and after the final note was heard, everything erupted.

“The response was incredible. But he died the next year. He had overworked himself, a bit like Mozart. There are parallels. He was also a child prodigy, a very talented young polymath.

“The piece is pure joy all the way through to do. It has got an interesting theme, which is the curse that is sent down, which is a melodic theme that runs all the way through. It is about the people being physically challenged by drought and hunger as a result of the wrath of God. Elijah is arguing with God about who is God. It is about testing and challenging the people to show their commitment to the right God. We have this incredible journey that Elijah takes through anger to the people and testing them and being thrown out by the prophets and then apparently rejected by God. It is very reflective in the second half where Elijah really goes into the wilderness and has to be coaxed out again in order to fulfil his role as representative to God. It is an emotional rollercoaster, and the music reflects this.”

Joy Baggs, chairman of the publicity committee, said: “We are very lucky to have a really good musical director in Cathal. The good thing with Cathal is that his musicality is incredible. His expertise and knowledge of choral works certainly help the choir. He is very passionate about what he does and about getting the very best out of the choir. I think he has a very good way with him, coaxing the choir, and he also he has very, very high standards of performance and presentation. We do feel pushed with him. He is so passionate about getting the best possible sound, and every second is important to him in rehearsal. You feel it is continuous the whole time, that he is wanting to get the very best he can. I think the choir has come on hugely and we are very appreciative of what he is trying to do with this particular piece.”

Tickets cost £15 (students £7.50) and are available from Henry Adams, Billingshurst. Call 01403 785648.

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