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Handel Fan Celebrates 40th Year Attending The Royal Choral Society's Good Friday Messiah At The Royal Albert Hall

For many, Good Friday is a day to kick back, enjoy a hot cross bun or two and contemplate a relaxing holiday weekend. For John Yates and his mother Dee, Good Friday means an annual pilgrimage to hear Handel's glorious oratorio Messiah at London's iconic Royal Albert Hall, performed by the Royal Choral Society - the choir has performed it at the RAH every Good Friday since 1876. This year John and Dee are celebrating an incredible 40 years of attending this annual Easter event.

John was only 14 years old when he first attended the Royal Choral Society's Good Friday Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall in 1979. A few years earlier his mother had been given a record player and 'Handel Messiah - Selections' was amongst her first LPs (she still has it). It became a favourite and they chose the Royal Choral Society's Good Friday performance at the Royal Albert Hall to hear it live for the first time, loving the concert so much that they have returned every year. This year, to celebrate the 40th year of attending this very special concert, they are doing it in style, with a complimentary box (courtesy of the choir) for the performance and a behind-the-scenes visit on 12th March to see the choir in rehearsal, and to meet conductor Richard Cooke and members of the choir, many of whom have sung at the 39 Messiahs already attended by John and Dee.

John commented: 'To us, Messiah is as traditional as turkey on Christmas Day. The piece is obviously based on religious texts which are appropriate for the day, but for us it's more than this: it's a wonderful oratorio where beautiful arias and sweeping choruses lift our spirits. It's a time of year when I look back and reflect and, during both the Hallelujah and Amen Choruses, I look up and give thanks for another year - for getting though it and for keeping loved ones safe. As I've worked in payroll for the last 38 years, it also represents the start of something new with the new tax year - the parallels from the libretto do not get lost on me! Our friends and family will always know where to find us at 2:30pm on Good Friday each year!'

The choir was thrilled when John got in touch to let them know about his 40th anniversary. Richard Cooke, Music Director of the Royal Choral Society said: 'We know that our Good Friday Messiah is an annual event for many, as it's such a special occasion. It was wonderful to meet John and Dee at our rehearsal and to hear how this concert has such an important place in their lives. We love performing Messiah - it's a true masterpiece.'

Is 40 years attending the same annual concert a record? We think so!

Handel's Messiah on Good Friday| Royal Albert Hall

Friday 30th March, 2.30pm

Royal Choral Society

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Richard Cooke

Soprano: Anna Devin, Mezzo-soprano: Madeleine Shaw, Tenor: Rufus Müller, Bass: Dominic Sedgwick

Formed originally for the opening of the Royal Albert Hall in 1871, the Royal Choral Society gave its first performance on 8 May 1872 under the baton of the choir's founder Charles Gounod. Since its inception, the choir has been connected with the musical world's most illustrious names: Verdi conducted the RCS in the British première of his Requiem in 1875 and Dvorák conducted the RCS singing his Stabat Mater nine years later. In 1927 the choir performed The Dream of Gerontius conducted by Elgar himself. The choir was later conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent whose association with the choir spanned forty years. The present Music Director, Richard Cooke, took over the baton from his distinguished predecessors in 1995.

Today, the choir maintains a balance between performances of traditional repertoire and the opportunities to perform in unusual and contrasting events at venues around the country and abroad. Recent highlights include a performance of Rachmaninov's The Bells and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky in Winchester Cathedral and Haydn's The Creation in Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, as well as 'Beating Retreat' on Horse Guards Parade, Carmina Burana in the Royal Albert Hall and leading the singing for the 40,000-strong audience in Hyde Park for the BBC's Proms in the Park.

Their spring concert schedule includes a concert at Cadogan Hall on Saturday 21st April, where the programme includes Faure's Requiem and Cantique de Jean Racine, and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.

In common with many Arts organisations, the RCS receives no official funding or grant. The choir survives on concert revenue, invitation income and donations from members, whilst the cost of putting on concerts and holding weekly rehearsals continues to rise. In recent seasons the variety of sponsored work undertaken by the choir has been broad ranging - from singing as entertainment at corporate dinners/award ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall, to corporate Christmas concerts and performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor and Haydn's Creation, sponsored by Waitrose. Their War Requiem concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014 was supported by the Lady R Foundation and raised £100,000 for the charity Veterans Aid.

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