Messiah – Black British Classical Foundation – review

“Unsurprisingly, Hallelujah, one of the most famous Messiah pieces was delivered with aplomb by the BBCF with the audience providing jubilant backing vocals”.
St John’s Church, Waterloo
Review by: Selina Julien
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Published: Wednesday 13 December 2023, 8:30am

Messiah – Black British Classical Foundation
Messiah – Black British Classical Foundation

The Black British Classical Foundation (BBCF) kicked off the festive season in style with a rousing performance of Messiah, the crowning achievement of 18th-century composer George Frideric Handel.

St John’s Church Waterloo hosted the sold-out show from the wonderfully diverse charity ensemble, created to support and nurture classical artists from communities of colour, led by distinguished conductor Adam Gibbs.

Soloists were excellent, each bringing their unique style. Trinidad-born Ronald Samm’s, notably the first Black tenor to sing the title role of Othello in the UK, powerful vocals reverberated around the church. Mezzo-soprano Felicity Buckland’s warm tones and quiet charm were a delight for those in the front rows, especially during Behold A Virgin Shall Conceive, although a mic would have been beneficial to treat the entire audience. 

Proving that the show must always go on, Venezuelan/Indian soprano Parvathi Subbiah was drafted in as a replacement singer in the final hour and took the audience’s breath away with her sultry voice and amazing expressions.

The biggest surprise of the night came from Oscar Castellino, who BBC News have billed as a rising star in the opera world, and for good reason too. With exceptional stage presence, his commanding baritone voice belied his diminutive stature, especially during The Trumpet Shall Soundwhich was punctuated by the fantastic trumpeter.

There was a generous sprinkling of Caribbean festive joy during the interval as the audience was treated to traditional rum cake served with sorrel, with the brave few opting for the killer rum punch – which did not disappoint!

The show’s second half was an exuberant but slightly lengthy affair, with its spectacular Hallelujah chorus as a highlight, immediately transporting me back to my school days singing rounds in the choir. Unsurprisingly one of the most famous Messiah pieces, the Black British Classical Foundation delivered it with aplomb with the audience providing jubilant backing vocals.

A wonderful way to sign off the year from the charity, and its charismatic founder Vincent Osborne, spectacularly elevating the operatic talents of underrepresented communities.

NEED TO KNOW: Black British Classical Foundation’s ‘Messiah’ was at St John’s Church, Waterloo on Tuesday 28 November 2023, 7pm | See listing | Find out more about the Black British Classical Foundation