The Organ

Mendelssohn: Elijah

The Counterpoint Choir
St Saviour's, Eastbourne
12th March 2005

Hearing Elijah with small forces and a large organ in a large church with poor acoustics makes for an interesting evening. The Counterpoint Choir under Anna Colls is essentially a chamber choir, as was obvious in the quieter, more reflective sections of the work. Quartets and smaller ensembles were sung with great sensitivity and accuracy. Solo voices carried well and the performance was greatly enhanced by the presence of Janis Kelly and Stephen Rooke who brought a muscular romanticism to their reading. Glenville Hargreaves was a bluff Elijah - hardly a sympathetic part these days as it is so politically incorrect - but he brought insight to the prophet's few introspective moments.

The choir has its strengths but was essentially over parted by the work which really demands more weight and authority. Perhaps if they had been working with a small instrumental ensemble rather than the organ they might have fared better. Unfortunately the organ simply could not respond to Mendelssohn's demands. This was not the fault of organist David Force who was obviously doing his best under extremely difficult circumstances. The outcome however was unfortunate. Recitatives were under supported, while larger choruses lacked weight - as if he feared drowning out the singers. The Walker organ was rebuilt in 1983 by John Males with a new choir division and console. It may be adequate for the liturgy but on this showing is not a recital instrument.

Tempi were bright and positive throughout and I would certainly be happy to hear the choir again under more favourable circumstances. Some churches may have the capacity for a large audience but they do little to enhance the music making experience.