Albeit the length of the entire work (two-and-a-half hours, excluding the intermission!), it was a well-paced and energetic performance organized by the Halleleujah Oratorio Society, in celebration of Rev Lee Chong Min’s 30 years of choral artistry. Contributing also to the success of the evening were four international soloists and the support from The Philharmonic Orchestra.
After a menacing prophecy by Elijah, the orchestra began the overture with as much intimidation, and a sense of imminent danger. However, they were almost completely drowned out when the choir entered with a thunderous roar of “Help, Lord! Wilt thou quite destroy us?” This choir was really loud!
Soprano Cecilia Yap was off to a shaky start, but soon got in control, singing with abundant strength and bell-like clarity. “Hear ye, Israel” was achingly sweet, delivering a powerful, pleading performance with just the right amount of vibrato. Her duet with mezzo-soprano Carol Lin “Lord, bow thine ear” touched hearts as Lin’s mellow voice complemented Yap’s bright tone. Lin proved to be an intelligent performer, portraying the two different characters (Jezebel and the Angel) by varying her sweet tone and with theatrical flair.
Baritone George Humphreys was undeniably the star of the evening. His projection and ability to hold long phrases was impressive. He portrayed the different emotions of Elijah very well with his facial expressions complementing his tone of voice, from the menacing warnings and mockery of the prophets of Baal to the tenderness when pleading and praying with God. His rendition of “It is enough” was a moment of striking intimacy, beautifully embroidered with obbligato parts from principal cellist Lin Juan. Other notable contributions from the orchestra include the unity of the brass section and the sensitive and shapely playing of timpanist Yeow Ching Shiong.