Lockdown performance of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus music director’s new arrangement for Handel’s Messiah

A Sheffield choir music director has been busy over lockdown, writing a new brass arrangement for Handel’s Messiah which world-famed musicians performed in their homes.

By Julia Armstrong Sheffield Telegraph Tuesday, 21st July 2020

The arrangement by Darius Battiwalla of the soprano aria How Beautiful Are the Feet is actually one of three from the Messiah that he put together for Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus.

“Darius wrote the new arrangements for us in return for continued payment during the lockdown,” said chorus chair Paul Henstridge. “We’re absolutely thrilled. It means that when we eventually perform the brass version with the wonderful Black Dyke Band, we can sing two more choruses than would otherwise have been possible”.

The chorus were set to perform a brass version of Messiah in April but the concert had to be postponed. Soprano Catrin Pryce-Jones was to have appeared alongside the chorus, so she was delighted when Darius asked her to make a virtual recording of How Beautiful Are the Feet, along with members of the world-famous Black Dyke Band, all performing from their own homes during lockdown.

“The new arrangement is very light and delicate, which is just right for this aria,” said chorus administrator Anne Adams. “Catrin sings it beautifully and the band accompany her with great sensitivity.”

You can judge for yourself, as the recording has been uploaded to the chorus website and can be enjoyed for free at https://sheffieldphil.org/how-beautiful-are-the-feet/.

In addition to the new Messiah arrangements, the chorus also commissioned Darius to write some Christmas music for them to sing at their popular annual carol concert at the City Hall in December. He has created a new brass arrangement of Resonet in Laudibus, a 16th-century German carol. If that concert can’t go ahead, they plan to perform it virtually as part of an online carol concert, along with the Black Dyke Band, again recorded from their own homes.

The brass Messiah concert has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sheffield City Hall. The 180 members of the chorus were going to be joined by more than 50 singers from Perigeux in France and from Sheffield’s twin city of Bochum in Germany. Happily, both choirs are planning to cross the Channel for the rescheduled concert.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


How Beautiful Are the Feet

In June 2020, during the coronavirus lock-down, our Music Director Darius Battiwalla produced brass arrangements of some movements from Handel’s Messiah that hadn’t up to then been arranged for brass band accompaniment. He did this in preparation for our performance of Messiah with the world-famous Black Dyke Band, originally scheduled for 2020 but which had to be postponed until April 2022.

Listen to one of the movements, the lovely soprano aria ‘How Beautiful Are the Feet’, sung by Yorkshire-born soprano Catrin Pryce-Jones accompanied by the Black Dyke Band.

Catrin Pryce-Jones

Yorkshire born Soprano Catrin Pryce-Jones studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, Chethams School of Music and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

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Catrin has been soprano soloist with many choral societies including the Edinburgh Choral Union, Oxford Harmonic Choir, Brighton Orpheus Choir, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and the Halifax Choral Society, singing solo soprano in numerous oratorios including the Fauré Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the Vivaldi Gloria, Bach’s St John Passion, Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Creation and of course Handel’s Messiah.

In 2017, Catrin appeared in the world premiere of Philip Wilby’s oratorio The Holy Face, along with Halifax Choral Society, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and the Black Dyke Band. She subsequently recorded the new oratorio along with the original world premiere participants.