Late Night Splendour

In Baroque, Review on November 23, 2012 at 10:15 am

Review – The Nightshift. The Orchestra & Chorus of the Age of Enlightenment. John Butt.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s latest Nightshift concert had it all – birthday honours, heads rolling and a body count “higher than Taggart”.

The OAE is at the forefront of bringing classical music to a wider audience and Nightshift is – judging from the raising of hands in the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night – not doing too bad a job as a ”sample” session allowing people to try out classical music.

And the evening is presented by Alistair Appleton, who is just the right side of geeky and excited.

And this particular Nightshift continued to prove not only that the OAE is committed to bringing in new audiences – young and old – but that they are one of the leading ensembles around.

For this Nightshift the players were joined by members of the chorus for selections from the evening’s earlier concert – Zadok the Priest and excerpts from Dixit Dominus as well as the opening movement of Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine.

But over and above the superlative performances that the Nightshift presents, it’s the simple joy and enthusiasm of the players that comes across and no more so than that of director John Butt. Not only was it evident that his knowledge is immense but his natural ability to communicate what was behind the music and what it all meant was infectious. It was Butt who made the Taggart reference when bringing to life the chorus Judicabit in Nationibus, and his diary column asides were brilliant. I don’t think I have ever heard the chronology of the Hanoverian Succession dealt with so succinctly and with such humour.

More John Butt I say.

And so to the music. Judging from the reaction of the friends I brought along, each and everyone a non-classical music fan, it was a great success. As ever the OAE played with gusto and precision from the very beginning.

Tim Travers Brown’s performance of Eternal Source of Light Divine was of a simple, hushed beauty heightened by the beautifully tailored interplay with the trumpet soloist. But one plea – please credit all the soloists!

With Zadok The Priest, Butt took no prisoners in terms of tempo but he kept the singing light and real attention to both rhythm and the separate vocal lines.

However the great moments were in Dixit Dominus. Again the opening movement was taken at an exhilarating pace. However the chorus were spot on, with vigorous articulation and perfect diction. And in all the choral movements, Butt ensured that the counterpoint in Handel’s music shone through.

But it was the two solo movements that stood out. The two soprano soloists drawn from the chorus had clean, almost boyish voices. The gentle triplet flow melismas in Tecum Principium held no fears for Natalie Clifton-Griffith. She sailed through them with agility and ease with a purity of voice so suited to this music. She was then joined by her colleague, Grace Davidson, for an achingly beautiful performance of De Torrente in via bibet, possibly Handel’s greatest example of devotional music before Butt unleashed the choral fury of the closing Gloria.

Sixty minutes raced by and suddenly The Nightshift as over. Sadly my one small criticism of the evening was leaving the Queen Elizabeth Hall and being overwhelmed by the dance beats of The Boy Dan Good. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ‘toon’ but even my friends admitted that after the wonderful performances they had heard in the concert hall, grabbing a glass of wine to a background of 120bpm was a but much.

I am looking forward to the next Nightshift in February. But while Alistair has promised us dancers, perhaps we can have a little less disco?

  1. […] opening piece, Eternal Source of Light Divine, so ravishingly performed only last week at OAE’s Nightshift, sounded distinctly hesitant and ragged under Spinosi’s direction. Indeed intonation and […]

  2. […] the bar when it comes to reaching new audiences and the inventiveness of their programming. Their Nightshift series is brilliant and their most recent event, celebrating the music of Handel with brilliantly amusing […]

  3. […] a deal with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and their excellent Night Shift and The Works […]

  4. […] Age of Enlightenment has created something really special with initiatives such as The Works and Night Shift. Of course they are mainly aimed at attracting new audiences but just as importantly I think they […]

  5. […] the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for example with their new audience initiatives such as Night Shift and The Works. Some opera houses – but not English National Opera sadly – and theatres are […]

  6. […] market in ways to bring music to audiences in fresh and innovative ways. And while The Works and Night Shift aim to bring new audiences to classical music, personally I enjoy attending these concerts because […]

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