Colin Baines has sung in more than 80 performances of Handel’s Messiah and helped prepare at least 30 as assistant conductor of the City of Birmingham Choir.
On April 11 he conducts the Birmingham Choral Union in a rare complete account, bringing his choir back to Birmingham Town Hall for what used to be an Easter tradition.
“It’s our first concert in the refurbished Town Hall, and it’s with a Messiah at Easter, which was a popular time for the Choral Union to perform the work historically,” Colin says. “It’s a magnificent piece of architecture, both in its text and its musical structure. If it’s cut, you lose both the meaning of the work and the logic of the music, where you can end up with wholly inappropriate shifts of key, and balance of solos to chorus.
“Although Handel tinkered with his settings and re-wrote numbers throughout his life, he would never have missed sections of the text out, and he knew how to structure a large-scale work like nobody else.”
The performance will use an edition closely based on Handel’s original, discarding revisions by later editors.
Despite his experience in performing the work, this will be only the third time Baines has conducted it with the Birmingham Choral Union. “It’s been very interesting and incredibly rewarding to prepare the piece with this choir, most of whom have never performed it before, and are learning it note by note and phrase by phrase like any other new piece,” he says.
“We have a great line-up of soloists, and a wonderful chamber-sized orchestra, and all the performers are tremendously excited about what promises to be a great occasion.”
Birmingham Choral Union performs Messiah at Birmingham Town Hall on April 11 at 7pm (details on 0121 780 3333).
This is only one of several Easter choral events, kicking off on Saturday with the Birmingham Bach Choir at the Oratory, Hagley Road. Paul Spicer’s programme begins with James MacMillan’s Easter cantata Seven Last Words from the Cross, composed for BBC TV in 1994, and ends with four works by Purcell, whose 350th anniversary is celebrated this year.
The Orchestra of the Swan collaborates in the concert, which begins at 7.30pm (0121 303 2323).
On Sunday choral singers are invited to join the CBSO in Symphony Hall for a Singalong performance of Mozart’s Requiem, Simon Halsey taking time out from his busy schedule as chorus director in Birmingham, Berlin and elsewhere to conduct.
Advance booking is essential and there is room for mere listeners as well. The rehearsal starts at 1.30pm, with the performance at 7pm (0121 780 3333).
Symphony Hall presents its annual Good Friday presentation of Bach’s St Matthew Passion on April 10. Jeffrey Skidmore directs Ex Cathedra and its Baroque Orchestra, and the soloists are headed by Nicholas Mulroy as the Evangelist and Eamonn Dougan as Christus. It begins at 2pm.