The Festive Season, for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, ended in some style yesterday. Our annual Messiah had been sold out for some time, as it always is, every year.To be fair, it is never the same two years running, as we always change conductors and soloists. The only constants are the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, the orchestra and me as the soloist in ‘The Trumpet Shall Sound.’
This year was the turn of Laurence Cummings, to conduct from the harpsichord. This is a fine musician, carving out quite a name on the international circuit. He has just conducted a run of The Messiah at London’s famous Coliseum for English National Opera. What was particularly good about working for this very nice man, was that he did not arrive with any preconceived ideas. He worked with a freshness and a flexibility that was refreshing for everyone. If soloists, trumpets or whoever had a good idea he went with it. He didn’t try to change a thing in The Trumpet Shall Sound, for instance, and said he was delighted with the choice of ornaments etc.
Speaking of our fabulous soloists; here’s the stellar lineup…
Sophie Bevan soprano
Jennifer Johnston alto
James Oxley tenor
Matthew Brook bass
Laurence Cummings talks about The Messiah
They were all first class, and it would be unfair to single anyone out. Also first class was our wonderful Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir!
The way he had the choir pronouncing their diction really told the story with conviction. The trumpets and timpani are only in five movements in total, out of fifty four! (The timpani only in four) and Laurence had decided to include each movement; unusual to have no cuts. However, he did go through many of them ferociously quickly – very exciting.
You might be asking what do the trumpets do all that time, with nothing to do. Well, we don’t sit on stage getting cold, that’s for sure! In the first half, The Messiah normally has one interval, we play in number 17 only, and that is offstage, to sound in the distance. Laurence Cummings introduced a new idea this year, and had the trumpets enter the hall in the Grand Circle, upstairs out in the hall, just before number 17.
You could here the gasps of surprise as the audience saw us walking in. I did feel a little sorry, however, for the man immediately in front of me and Paul, who seemed to be severely shocked and even stuck his fingers in his ears!
We then re-enter the main performance area, as the Bass is singing number 40, ‘Why Do The Nations So Furiously rage.’ We then play no.44, The Hallelujah Chorus, where all the audience traditionally stand up. This tradition is said to have strarted when King George the Second felt the need to stand up at this point as he was suffering from a painful attack of gout! (as a fellow sufferer, I have every sympathy) In those days if the King stood up everybody else had to, also. The trumpeter then gets to listen to ‘I Know That My Redeemer Liveth’ before the ‘death sequence’ commences and the nerves begin setting in before number 48, the fearsome ‘The Trumpet Shall Sound.’ It is always a relief to get this one out of the way, so that the trumpets can then enjoy the last two numbers of this magnificent work, Worthy Is The Lamb and Amen Chorus…