Theatre Review: Glorious Handel by Candlelight

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Having recently trudged through Northampton’s chilly, rain-sodden town centre, I found there was nothing quite like a spot of Handel’s music to warm the heart.

I’m always amazed by the way in which, centuries after certain composers have died, a concert of their music will still pack out theatre seats; and Handel is definitely a ticket-selling name.

And when I visited the Royal & Derngate last night to enjoy the Glorious Handel By Candlelight Concert, the theatre rows certainly looked very busy.

But just five minutes spent listening to the Mozart Festival Orchestra performing some of Handel’s most famous works was enough to remind me just how fantastic this composer was.

The concert’s programme was filled with such favourite pieces as extracts from the Messiah, Ombra Mai Fu (Handel’s Largo) and the well known Water Music, which was composed in 1717 for a concert on the Thames in honour of George 1.

Highlights for me included performances by the soprano Rachel Nicholls. Dressed in a huge red ballgown, she really commanded the stage, delivering some exquisite vocal performances of such songs as I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, from the Messiah.

Crispian Steele-Perkins, dressed in an extraordinarily glittery waistcoat, also delivered some really majestic performances on the trumpet.

Perhaps part of this touring concert’s charm is that it is illuminated by the warm glow of faux candlelight and each of the performers is dressed from head to toe in the velvets and laces of authentic 18th century garb. Combine this with the unmistakeable sound of the harpsichord (played by Adrian Partington) and the event has the effect of mentally transporting audiences back by at least a couple of centuries.

On a rainy day, Glorious Handel By Candelight really cheered me up and I would definitely recommend it to any theatre-goers looking to attend a beautiful evening of music, filled with old-fashioned glamour.