Cockermouth Harmonic Society

Samson Handel

Christ Church, Cockermouth, 26 Jan 2013

Wending my way from Carlisle to Cockermouth on a chilly and rainy January evening, I was comfortably cocooned in my car enjoying a favourite opera on the radio.  At my journey’s end I was reluctant to face the foul weather, but face it I did and leaned with purpose into the wind to find Christ Church where Cockermouth Harmonic Society was anticipating its performance of Handel’s Oratorio Samson.

I always think of oratorio as religious opera and this (Cockermouth Harmonic Society’s) performance certainly gave us plenty of drama as we were led through the final episodes in the life of the Biblical hero Samson, when he was ‘a blind, humiliated slave in chains, ridden with remorse for having allowed himself to be tricked by Delilah…and racked by guilt and shame for having revealed the secret of his strength, his direct link with the God of Israel.’*

The drama was colourfully revealed by a neat and disciplined choir who displayed a lovely, balanced sound with confident singing and excellent ensemble. The emotions of the characters their stories were movingly and skilfully revealed by the soloists. Samson was played and sung with dramatic pathos by Adam Smith, Anne-Marie Kerr, as Samson’s best friend Micah, went straight to the heart with her honest singing and Laurie Ashworth singing as Delilah and the Israelitish woman was stylish and elegant. Jolyon Dodgson’s performance was poignant as Samson’s father and James Johnson was compelling as the evil Harapha.

Integral to the singing was the skilled, beautiful and sensitive playing of the members of the Lonsdale Baroque Ensemble who were expertly led by Julian Cann with the understated skill of Ian Hare as organ continuo supporting choir and soloists.

Integral of course to the whole performance was Ian Thompson whose consummate expertise brought the whole performance together.

There were many special moments in this performance of Samson, which I was not alone in appreciating. A warm, capacity audience showed its pleasure and It was a privilege to witness a performance where amateurs excelled and united with professionals in a compelling, moving and splendid performance.

*From an original programme note by William Gould, supplied through Making Music’s programme note service.

Charlotte Jackson 27/01/2013