The story of Samson, sometimes described as the biblical Hercules, a man of super-human strength, is full of drama and Haddo House Choral Society (HHCOS) channelled all its energy into ensuring Handel’s oratorio was a tour de force in the opening event of Haddo Arts Festival.
Together with a full orchestra and four extremely talented young soloists under the baton of musical director, Dr Paul Tierney, HHCOS delivered a storming performance in front of their patron, HRH The Earl of Wessex.
During his visit to Haddo, The Earl of Wessex also visited the art exhibition in Haddo’s South Wing and courtyard and spent time meeting many of the volunteers, choral members and supporters of the Haddo Arts Festival.
In a message to festival goers published in the programme, The Earl of Wessex noted that thanks to Handel, Samson became the next chapter in the story of the development of opera. Anyone familiar with the work of Handel knows that he was a master of melody and drama and the oratorio began with Samson in chains, having lost his strength and been blinded by the Philistines yet closes with one of Handel’s most famous arias, ‘Let the bright Seraphim in burning row / their loud, uplifted angel-trumpets blow’.
The four young professional soloists Liam Bonthrone, Lauren Young, Arthur Bruce and Amy Strachan provided a wonderfully balanced interplay of top quality performances, taking on a myriad of characters drawn from both the Israelites and the Philistines. And the moment when Amy Strachan front stage sang in an echo duet with Toto Coxe, singing from the HHCOS chorus, brought a refreshingly different and local colour to this major musical work.
Another special local ingredient was the Haddo harpsichord, made especially for Haddo by musician, David Murray. This beautiful instrument, so appropriate for Baroque music, was played with great skill by Dr Roger Williams, adding an extra authenticity and virtuosity to the mix.
Many who were there for the performance will no doubt have abiding memories of wonderful dramatic melodies and an energetic choral society in great form, and well-prepared to tackle another choral masterpiece.