The University of Portsmouth Choir joins forces with the Solent Symphony Orchestra, Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, St Mary’s Church Choir and soloists from the Royal College of Music to benefit local musical charities while realizing a research project led by Dr George Burrows.
Armed with the knowledge that the majority of Portsmouth’s pre-1850 musical work had been lost, Dr George Burrows, despite his dedication to musical history, wasn’t too ambitious when he searched Portsmouth’s Central Library for historical pieces. Nevertheless, he looked, and soon came across a remarkably plain filling cabinet.
Opening the cabinet draw revealed nothing unusual – Dr Burrows was greeted by streams of recent, glossy musical programs. With a closer look however, he discovered a brown envelope tucked at the back of the drawer.
Inside the envelope hid a workbook from a performance of Messiah in Portsmouth in 1812.
A little beaten with time, the workbook looks intriguing, but not yet spectacular. It is only on closer inspection that it breaks this barrier – the workbook has been covered in annotations.
The notes have proved invaluable, with even the smallest piece of information revealing more about the performance. One scribble alone, deciphered as “Flute”, informs George that the performance was Mozart’s arrangement.
As well as musical highlights, the notes add opinions to the piece, detailing the 1812 performance of Messiah in Portsmouth with Italian soprano Angelica Catalani. The annotation also reveals some interesting facts, including that the performance was fashioned around the diva: extra music was introduced specifically for the singer.
And now, the research of Dr Burrows will culminate in a performance of Messiah this March, bringing together over 200 performers to recreate the large-scale performance seen in 1812. Hear visiting professionals, university staff, students, alumni and townsfolk raise their voices and money for good causes, as Messiah did in its time.
The University of Portsmouth Choir joins forces with the Solent Symphony Orchestra, Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, St Mary’s Church Choir and soloists from the Royal College of Music in the performance, to benefit local musical charities.
“The performance in itself is research,” explains George. “We are exploring the tension between the spirit and the literal recreation of the performance.”
Handel’s Messiah has always brought people together to make music and support charity. Messiah has been performed in Portsmouth since the later 1700s, when it helped pay for the building of a new church, St John’s Chapel. It brought some of the nations best musicians to the city to perform alongside local choirs and instrumentalists and helped establish a series of music festivals.
An exhibition of background research for this performance is displayed in Portsmouth’s Guildhall, with an expanded exhibition available at St Mary’s Church, Portsea. Read more about the original exhibition here.
Tickets for the performance can be purchased here. Student prices available.