Message on 'Messages'!

Message on 'Messages'!
The Huddersfield Choral Society, conducted by Joseph Cullen, gave the eagerly-awaited UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s Messages on 1 April 2011.  The experience prompted one choir member to write to The Times as follows:

Play On
'Sir, As a member of the Huddersfield Choral Society (arts, review, Apr 4) I have found that learning Jonathan Harvey’s Messages seems to have paid dividends in helping the speed at which I do the Su Doku.  More evidence that music is good for the brain.'
Jean Collison (Huddersfield, W Yorks)
The Times, 5 April 2011


‘...the densely woven choral textures move from one level of heaven to the next, whether driven by brass instruments arranged spatially around them, by excitable woodwind, or the exotic soundworld of the continuo. But it's never overdone: the textures remain beautifully refined, the pacing perfectly natural, the ending magical... [Joseph Cullen] and his choir gave Messages a glowing, iridescent performance
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 3 April 2011

‘...earlier the Choral offered something much more delicate yet even more admirable: a brave stab at a challenging new work never before performed in Britain.  And what an extraordinary piece Jonathan Harvey’s Messages is.  The messages come from angels, and the choir’s entire text comprises a recitation of their Persian and Judaic names – all 144 of them – while the music evokes the seven heavens of biblical tradition.
Harvey uses an orchestra piled with bells, percussion, harps, pianos, celeste and even a cimbalom to add a gorgeous jangle to the surface.  That and swirling woodwind create an impression of floating over a thousand temples.  Below all this the choir starts and ends with lush, slow, tonal chords, beautifully sustained and mellow.
In the middle, however, the music becomes more ecstatic.  Here, Harvey seems to summon the spirits of sacred music past: Bach, Tudor polyphony, even Howells.  It’s as though he is wafting the soul of choral music itself to paradise...Harvey’s fading oscillations are enshrined by the very quiet but magical sound of 150 singers deep-breathing, like the swell of a distant sea.’
The Times (Richard Morrison), 4 April 2011

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