Working together to put on a real show

The choir of St Marys Church, Fratton
The choir of St Marys Church, Fratton

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PEOPLE who visit St Mary’s Church, or who follow us on social media, are often surprised by the variety of things that happen there.

One of the exciting aspects of being the vicar of the parish is that no two days, let alone weeks, are ever the same and you find yourself being involved in a vast range of activities and meeting a diverse group of people.

We are currently working closely with Dr George Burrows from the University of Portsmouth on a project which will culminate in a performance of Messiah. But this will be no ordinary concert.

Handel’s most famous choral work, Messiah, has always brought people together to make music and support charity.

Dr Burrows’ research has shown that 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.

This performance brought some of the nation’s best musicians to the city to perform alongside local choirs and instrumentalists and helped establish a series of music festivals.

At one of these festivals in 1812, the great Italian soprano Angelica Catalani sang in Messiah in the city.

An annotated wordbook from that performance in Portsmouth’s Central Library shows a distinctive version of Messiah was fashioned around the diva; extra music was introduced and she appropriated solos usually sung by others.

In March this year, the University of Portsmouth Choir joins forces with the Solent Symphony Orchestra, Portsmouth Cathedral Choir, and our own St Mary’s Church Choir alongside soloists from the Royal College of Music to benefit local musical charities.

It will bring together 200 performers inside St Mary’s Church to recreate that performance of Handel’s Messiah given in Portsmouth in 1812.

The performance will be taking place on Saturday, March 18, from 7pm. Tickets will range from £17 to £8, and are available by either calling 023 9284 3023 or music@port.ac.uk.

One of the charities being supported by this performance is our very own St Mary’s Music Foundation, which seeks to encourage local young people to explore and develop their musical skills and gifts and broaden their horizons.

If you want to know more about the history of this, why not visit the exhibition of research for this performance, which is displayed in Portsmouth’s Guildhall and in St Mary’s Church.