For the fourth time in five years, Errol Girdlestone will be directing Handel’s masterpiece at St Paul’s Church, Monte-Carlo, 22 ave de Grande Bretagne. Tickets €30 at the door of from FNAC.
The performance, which takes place this Saturday, December 10 at 8pm, features soprano Elenor Bowers-Jolley, counter tenor Clint van der Linde, tenor Alex Tsilongiannis and bass Thomas Dear.
Organised in part with the Association Musique de Chambre Monaco, the benefactor of this concert has made a commitment to underwrite the costs of future performances and is making an effort to recruit other music lovers capable of joining him in covering the costs in the hope of establishing “Messiah” as a Riviera pre-Christmas tradition.
The Ristretto Choir and Orchestra formed in 2009, has a pool of some 30 top amateur and professional British and French singers and for Messiah has recruited musicians from the Monaco Philharmonic to form the orchestra.
The choir’s Oxford-born director, Errol Girdlestone, read music at Keble, where he was very involved with the musical life of the university but “I don’t think the actual degree course did much for me – it was about musicology rather than music – though it did gave me ability to read a score intelligently and analyse it which are absolute necessities for a conductor,” he said in an interview in 2013.
He was a session singer all over London, mainly classical but also with a bit of pop – “I once sang with Pink Floyd” – before getting a British Council scholarship for a conducting course in Warsaw. He was then taken on by the English National Opera and invited to South Africa where he worked with the Pretoria and Cape Town
Operas and then became municipal director of music for Pietermaritzburg.
Mr Girdlestone returned briefly to the UK in the mid-Eighties and then went off to work with the Oslo opera for a few years. “I got invited to join the Nice Opera,” he said. “I was there for four years and then 24 years ago something really interesting turned up. I got an offer to take over a choir, which eventually became part of a wider musical organisation mainly involving some very enthusiastic and dedicated Germans
working at IBM.” That was the beginning of what’s now the Ensemble Vocal Syrinx, currently led by Francesca Tosi.
Freelance engagements have taken Mr Girdlestone elsewhere to fulfil contracts as opera conductor or chorus master in theatres at Aix-en-Provence, Cologne, Chicago, Montevideo, Monte Carlo and he’s appeared as symphony conductor in Leipzig, Vienna, Bregenz, and at the Yehudi Menuhin festival in Gstaad.