In the twinkling of an eye – Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

05/06/2015 12:36

The Chorale doesn’t often get to sing big classical works. Our normal concerts consist of several 3–8 minute recent compositions in various styles, generally a cappella. So the opportunity to sing Mahler’s Symphony No.2 “Resurrection” with a large orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall was intriguing to say the least.

The last time this writer heard this piece was at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall (long since demolished) with the Hallé. Our performance on 30th May will live in my memory rather more than the Hallé’s. It’s much more satisfying and memorable being a doer than a watcher – especially if you are a tenor and you get to sing a high B flat! It’s not de rigueur for tenors in the Chorale to sing that high (if you can, let us know), but everyone seemed to enjoy putting everything into the climax of this wonderful music. We all went for it, and got it, including a high G for the basses – tenor territory.

It was sheer good music produced by the excellent Wrexham Symphony Orchestra and the combined choirs of the Manchester Chorale, Altrincham Choral Society, Buxton Musical Society and the Sirenian Singers – all of us amateurs. We have an amazing tradition in this country of amateur musicians producing quality music. Only the previous day, this writer had been to the Saddleworth Brass Band Festival and witnessed and thoroughly enjoyed the highest standard of musicianship. In fact, some of the young off-stage brass section that I spoke to at the Mahler rehearsal had played at Saddleworth. Compliments to you all.

We usually see the conductor Richard Howarth as the leader of the Manchester Concert Orchestra when the Chorale does the Raymond Gubbay concerts. However as we discovered, he’s a very competent conductor. The choir had only rehearsed the final choral movement with the orchestra. To hear the full orchestra in the first four movements while we were on stage was awe-inspiring. I don’t know how a conductor can marshal a force of that size (e.g. eight double basses!), including the off-stage section via a video link, and then bring the choir in on cue, and not panic. But he did and he didn’t, respectively. As Richard put it on his website, “[It] was one of the musical highlights of my life (and I’ve had a few).”  

The Chorale’s MD Jill Henderson-Wild was the Chorus Master and turned us from a bemused-by-the-key-changes choir into a competent ppp-to-fff force.

A standing ovation was the confirmation that we needed that it was not just the performers who enjoyed the performance, so had the audience.

And then it was all over – in the twinkling of an eye.

GG