Lockdown performance of new arrangement for Handel’s Messiah

Julia Armstrong, Sheffield Telegraph

Tuesday 21 July 2020

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.

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 dministrator 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.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Read the original article on the Sheffield Telegraph website

Chorus supports its locked-down musicians

The Chorus continues to pay its three professionals during these strange times, which are proving to be very difficult for professional musicians, many of whom are self employed. In return for the continued payments, the three musicians are working for the Chorus in different ways.

For example, Music Director Darius Battiwalla is composing a new Christmas carol, and writing brass arrangements for the sections of Messiah that don’t currently have them. This will enable the Chorus to sing more of Handel’s work when it joins with Black Dyke Band in the re-scheduling of the brass concert which was postponed due to the coronavirus.

“We are pleased to be able to support our three professionals by commissioning alternative work from them at this time” said Chorus Chair Paul Henstridge. ” We are all missing live rehearsals, but at least we will gain a lasting positive out of this very difficult situation”.

Accompanist Rachel Fright and Voice Coach Maggie McDonald are working together to digitise Maggie’s vocal exercises, which are sent to the Chorus to enable them to continue to keep their voices in trim during the lock-down.