DURHAM Singers and Ensemble joined forces with stunning young soloists to set the festive mood with a glorious performance of Handel’s Messiah, in front of a capacity audience at Durham Cathedral.

Musical director Dr Julian Wright shaped a refined account, with an animated chorus in full voice. The orchestra of period instruments gave a nuanced and warm accompaniment throughout, with playing perfectly suited to the five Samling Academy soloists - singing the Messiah for the first time.

Tenor Jordan Carlton made an indelible impression when he opened with a heartfelt rendition of Comfort ye, and nimble aria Ev’ry valley shall be exalted.

Singing with a richly-textured bass, Samling Artist Arshak Kuzikyan rose to the occasion in The Trumpet Shall Sound, with a glittering instrumental solo by Chris Parsons on his baroque instrument.

Countertenor Lewis Cullen projected his lines with bell-like clarity and delicacy, singing with striking ornamentation in But who may abide the day of His coming.

Soprano Ana Fernandez Guerra provided one of the highlights of evening with the sublime aria I know that my redeemer Liveth, while soprano Charlotte Potter sang with vibrancy. Mezzo-soprano Ines Antunes’ treatment of He shall feed his flock like a shepherd was superlative, as was her duet with Carlton in O death, where is thy sting?

The chorus invested each bar with feeling. For unto us a child is born had a palpable sense of joy, with brilliant emphasis placed on the words Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God.

The fugal passages of And with His stripes we are healed were immaculately laid out, while the sopranos voices soared to the heavens in And he shall purify.

The famous The Hallelujah Chorus, which forms the emotional heart of the oratorio, was a tour de force.

It was an absorbing and life-affirming evening.

Gavin Engelbrecht