In Woodbridge, complete oratorio performances are very seldom attempted. Whether it is that the works of the great masters are considered too difficult to essay, or whether the necessary courage is lacking, is a matter for conjecture. One thing is certain, however, that talent abounds, for this has from time time been fully demonstrated. Additional proof of this was also forthcoming on Wednesday evening, when the Woodbridge Choral Society composed purely of local talent attempted Handel's difficult work, "Judas Maccabaeus."
The concert took place in the Lecture Hall, and deserved more generous patronage than it received. On the whole, the performance was distinctly successful, the chorus-singing was most praiseworthy, and Mr. H. M. Timbers, the conductor, is be congratulated upon the pleasing results attained, and the success of his efforts in the training of the choir. Although weakness of attack was at times perceptible, and occasional hesitancy apparent, the effort was marked with a very intelligent conception. The harmony was also very effective, the parts being nicely balanced, and formed a pleasing combination.
The soprano solos were all sung by local artists Mrs. Frank Amer, Miss F. Skelton, and Miss L. P. Swan, whilst Mr Arthur Welburn, of Ipswich, the basso, was responsible for the music allotted to Simon. Mr. Alfred Pinnington, of London, took the title role. The latter singer, who possesses a fine tenor voice and great artistic feeling, was very successful as a student at the Guildhall School of Music, and is well-known at the Albert Hall and Crystal Palace concerts. All the soloists performed admirably, and interpreted the parts entrusted to them with great success.
The accompaniments of Mr. W. Crotch. A.L.C.M. (piano), and Mr. Bernard Rowland (organ), left nothing to be desired, and, needless to say, added greatly to the success of the evening.
In the opening chorus, "Mourn, ye afflicted children," the chorus did exceptionally well, treating that number with feeling and sympathy, whilst they were also heard to advantage in the beautiful chorus, "O Father, whose almighty power." Their most telling effort, however, was in the rendering of "We never will bow down."
The first movement, in which the people utter their detestation the heathen idolatries by which the sanctuary of Jerusalem had been desecrated, was given with marked emphasis, whilst the second part, recording the determination of the people only to worship the God of Israel, was sung with boldness and decision. For this the choir received well-merited applause. "See the Conquering Hero comes" was also sung with fulness and freedom, whilst the concluding chorus, "Sing unto God," proved a fitting termination to a really fine effort.
The leading soprano soloist Mrs. Frank Amer, who throughout sang with confidence and beauty of expression. In the parts entrusted her, she was able to use a voice of wonderful flexibility and purity with great effect. Certainly, in Woodbridge at least, she has never been heard to better advantage, and the intelligence and precision with which she dealt with the more difficult parts gained her unstinted praise. Free from restraint, she was seldom at fault, whilst her artistic conception was exemplary. In the beautiful air, "From mighty kings he took the spoil, she was probably at her best, and the appreciative applause which followed was richly deserved. The air, "Come, ever-smiling liberty," was also delightfully treated, and not less the air, as well as the chorus by the choir, "Ah! wretched Israel." For her fine rendering of So shall the lute and harp awake," she was re-called.
Miss F. Skelton also did remarkably well, although, requiring a little more fulness and breadth of tone. In the duets, "Sion now her head shall raise," and "O never bow we down," her work was most satisfactory, and the result altogether pleasing.
The other lady soloist, Miss Swan, gave a brilliant rendering of the air, "Wise men flattering, and created a splendid impression. Singing with much feeling and taste, she came in for lavish applause and an encore.
Mr. Arthur Welburn thoroughly maintained his reputation. His rendering of the portions with which he had to deal was first-class. Undoubtedly his greatest success was in the recitative, "I feel the Deity within," and the magnificent, soul-stirring air, "Arm, arm, ye brave." His singing of the difficult recitative, "Be comforted," was faultless.
Mr. A. Pinnington, although affected by a cold, sang with great effect, and for the excellent manner in which he submitted "Sound an alarm," was re-called.