Handel’s Messiah is perhaps the best-known and best loved of all oratorios. Its first performance was in Dublin at The New Music Hall on 13 April 1742 and it created a sensation, not least because the contralto part was taken by the English actress and singer Susannah Cibber, whose scandalous exploits in London had led to her exile in Dublin. So great was the anticipation of this performance that the management of the Music Hall put out a notice asking ladies not to wear their extensive hoops under their dresses, and gentlemen not to wear their swords, so that more people could be accommodated. In the event there were about 700 people crammed into the small theatre.

It is unlikely that we shall have these problems when the Stratford Choral Society perform Messiah on Saturday 15 December at 7.30pm in Holy Trinity Church. We do not have a Susannah Cibber amongst our soloists! The contralto part will be taken by Sacha Fullerton, the soprano is Stratford’s own Fleur Moore-Bridger, the tenor is James Atherton whose last appearance with the choir was in CPE Bach’s Magnificat, and the bass is another Stratford favourite, Jimmy Holliday. Our friends in the Regency Sinfonia will provide the orchestral back-up and the entire event is conducted by the Society’s Music Director, Stephen Dodsworth.