The Royal Choral Society will perform Handel’s Messiah virtually this Good Friday, to continue a Royal Albert Hall tradition that has been going for 144 years – broken only by the Blitz.

Following the cancellation of this year’s annual performance, members have formed a virtual choir to allow audiences everywhere to enjoy an Easter institution – and are inviting the public to join them in singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ at 4:35pm (BST) tomorrow.

This special performance will see 82 members of the Royal Choral Society singing from their own homes, as conductor Richard Cooke joins from his garden, and Richard Pearce – regular organist for the Last Night of the Proms – provides accompaniment.

Richard Cooke, Music Director at the Royal Choral Society, said: ‘We are all saddened not to be performing Handel’s Messiah in person this year, and we’re particularly sorry that our audience members have been denied their annual performance of this magnificent work. Our thoughts are also with all those around the world who have been affected by this terrible pandemic.

“But we’re proud to be able to present this special performance, which we hope goes some way to preserving this tradition. It’s not perfect – but then Royal Choral members were singing alone at home, rather than within the comfort of a 120-strong choir accompanied by the RPO! In these strange times, when we are missing our rehearsals and concerts together, performing ‘virtually’ has been the next best thing, and we hope that singers around the world will join with us to sing this great piece of choral music on this special day.”

The Royal Choral Society has performed Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday at the Royal Albert Hall every year since 1876, only pausing for two years during the Blitz.

This performance is screening as part of #RoyalAlbertHome, which presents performances by the world’s greatest artists, direct from their living rooms. The programme launches today (Thursday), with a special show by baroque pop maestro Rufus Wainwright. Future headliners include Peter Gregson – renowned for his reinterpretations of Bach – pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing.

Lucy Noble, Artistic Director at the Royal Albert Hall, said: "We hope this unique performance will be a focal point for singers everywhere, so we can all connect through music this Good Friday. We look forward to times when concert halls around the world are filled once again with musicians and music lovers."

The Royal Choral Society is a registered charity but receives no funding, relying mostly on ticket sales. Many 2020 Messiah ticket holders have kindly donated their refunds to the choir. Donations can be made via the choir’s website www.royalchoralsociety.co.uk

For more information on Royal Albert Home, and to watch tomorrow's event, go to www.royalalberthall.com/RAHome.

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