AN interval can make quite a difference. On a sultry evening, York Minster's built-in air-conditioning offered a welcome opportunity to cool down on Saturday. But whether depressed by the small audience or enervated by the heat, the choir made little impact before the interval.

Handel's Israel In Egypt tells the gist of the Exodus story in a series of dramatic choruses. Some of these Israelites, however, might have been deciphering ancient Egyptian scrolls, for all the attention they paid conductor Philip Moore.

Fortunately, the orchestra was not so soporific. On the contrary, all the drama of the various plagues was conveyed in the instruments, the choir barely registering its involvement.

The half-time talk must have been searing. The choral impact changed immediately. Eencouragement came from two duets. Sopranos Angharad Gruffydd Jones and Michelle Foster, followed by basses Christopher Dixon and Edward Caswell, injected rhythmic vitality.

As the waters of the Red Sea piled up, the choir finally achieved full flow. Joshua Ellicott was forthright in his tenor aria, while counter-tenor Reno Troilus adorned and decorated his arias with consummate skill. Handel's sense of theatre had, in the end, been painted in its fullest colours.

Updated: 11:04 Monday, June 20, 2005