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Harlow Chorus set to Handel Thaxted

Lifestyle / Mon 30th Jun 2014 at 09:33am

Handel’s Israel in Egypt at Thaxted Church, 7.30pm Sunday 13 July

HANDEL’S Chorus is gearing up for the performance of a lifetime on Sunday 13 July, the final day of the 2014 Thaxted Festival. Handel’s Israel in Egypt, often called ‘the other Messiah’, is a theatrical telling of the Exodus story starting with the oppressed Israelites under the thumb of the Egyptian Pharaoh and ending with their liberation after Moses parts the waters of the Red Sea. Five soloists and the excellent Brandenburg Sinfonia help tell the story but the real star of this show is the choir who sing of the various plagues sent down upon Egypt – rivers turn into blood, followed by frogs, flies, lice, locusts, hailstones, darkness and the smiting of Egypt’s firstborns. Then Moses leads the Israelites “forth like sheep” and the waters close over the heads of the pursuing cavalry. Handel is at the top of his game with some dazzling choral and orchestral writing. And that’s only the first half.

The second half is really an extended gloat by the Israelites over the fate of their former captors, but it is a glorious gloat. The first and last choruses both launch into an exultant shout of joy that ‘the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea’, choir and orchestra galloping furiously to a denouement.  In between come a succession of choruses and arias that rehearse again, in some graphic detail, the miserable demise of the Egyptians and the panache with which God executed it. Some may feel that this is a trifle unsporting but Handel, needing to find favour with his public and with aristocratic and royal sponsors, knew what buttons to press. Britain was on the brink of war with Spain and Handel unashamedly drew a connection between the Israelites – “God’s elect” – and the British of the late eighteenth century, whose monarch was allegedly appointed by God, and whose army and navy were capable of lethal, ruthless and unassailable power.
This is a rare opportunity to hear what must be the oratorio equivalent of the football World Cup, chorus after tuneful chorus full of invention and drama culminating in a triumphant final showdown. Tickets (£29 and £22 reserved, £16 unreserved with £14 concessions) can be booked by emailing [email protected], calling Julia Dimon on 01277 362440 or calling Thaxted Festival on 01371 831421. Unreserved tickets can also be bought online (no booking fee) at www.harlowchorus.ticketsource.co.uk

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