Sunday, December 07, 2008

Handel's Messiah - Now and Then

December 5 & 6, 2008
Redeemer University College Auditorium
MacNab Presbyterian Church

This weekend, Brian and I had the opportunity to join 87 other members of the Redeemer University College Concert Choir and Alumni Choir to perform the quadrennial Messiah concert. Four years ago, Brian and I also sang, but he was with the Alumni and I was with the Concert Choir. Thus began our romance. :)

There are so many things to write about this year's performance that I have trouble finding a place to begin. Perhaps I shall start with last night. Wow. Last night, we had the opportunity to sing at MacNab Presbyterian down town (Dr T's home church). What an acoustic space! From the first go, the choir was bang on (well, as much as the Redeemer choir can be). There was about a three second echo in the church, which was awesome. Chris (since he's my colleague now, I'm allowed to call Dr T that) was thrilled with the first few choruses, and his joy was reflected in our voices. We were standing in a U shape which meant that I could hear every part as clear as a bell. It gave me chills. We nailed the Amen, though I had a hard time getting through the last few notes as a) I was losing my voice in a bad way and b) I was really choking up.

Also fantastic were the soloists. I would have to say that my favourite by far was Andrew Tees, baritone. He showed up at rehersal on Friday afternoon cracking jokes and dancing around the stage. He sang along with the other soloists as they rehearsed. He looked like a bit of a class-clown and had the aura of an NFL and NASCAR junkie - but when he opened his mouth and sang - wow. I believe I swooned. On Saturday evening as we were singing, he was facing my row and everytime the choir got up to sing he just looked as if it was the most exciting part of the evening. That was nice to see, as I couldn't actually see any of the audience from my back corner position.

The soloists all expressed that while it was perhaps not the most technichally brilliant performance (no surprise there), it was the most passionate Messiah that any of them had been a part of to date. To paraphrase them (I can't remember their exact words), between them they had been in hundreds of Messiah performances and not once had they heard a choir that was so committed to what they were singing. They could tell that we believed this was a real story that we were telling, and that we all believed in the story itself. The alto thanked us for helping her enter the season of advent.

The performance on Friday night at Redeemer wasn't brillant - it was certainly a good show and we mostly did a great job, but, as the bass soloist said, it's like singing into a pillow in the Redeemer Aud.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Having the experience of knowing the piece and not having to have my head buried in the score and worry that I'll screw up the whole evening really freed me up to listen, relax, enjoy, and worship. I look forward to next time. I'd love to sing the Messiah for Easter, sometime.

December 3 & 4, 2004
Redeemer University College Auditorim
Centenary United Church

Below is a blog that I posted on December 5th, 2004.
This past week scared me, though, in terms of both the rehearsals and the performances. It wasn't so much the singing that I was scared of; it was the fact that half the songs I was singing, despite enormous amounts of time practicing on my own, I didn't know. My fears were embodied and brought to fulfillment in Friday night's performance. Due to my lack of knowing the pieces, I wasn't able to watch Dr T as well as I should have been, and I take a huge chunk of the responsibility of the Alto problems. I freely admit to messing up on my favourite pieces, "The Lord Gave the Word," and many other pieces. One thing that I will admit: the hallelujah chorus gave me chills. It was worth going through Friday night in order to sing that chorus the way that we did. The Amen, as most know, did not go so well. I don't know that there's much more to say besides the comment that was passed around at The Brassie on Friday night: "What a train wreck!"
All day on Saturday, the Amen was not far from my mind. While getting ready for the performance that night, I must have listened to the recording of it ten times, not singing along with but feeling it. It sounds like a cliche, I'm quite aware of that. However, the sound that I was left with after Friday was not encouraging, and I needed to replace what was there. From the very beginning of the Saturday performance, I was excited. I could hear every single part of the choir: I felt as if I was a part of the choir, singing the choruses together, as opposed to Friday night when it felt (to me) as if we were all singing (some) of the choruses on our own, en masse. I had fun, and I could feel the presence of God among our choir, in the choruses and in the solos. Elation is the only word that would be fit to describe what consumed me a quarter of the way into the Amen. Well, elation, thankfulness and praise would be more accurate. I wasn't crying by the end, but my entire body shook as we sang the final measures, our director doubled over in tears. I have never been more thankful for the opportunity to be in choir.
This year is the first year that the Christmas concert has actually been performed twice, and in my opinion (and knowedge) this is the first year that the second performance has been so needed. I realize that a majority of the audience on Friday night won't have realized that we absolutely butchered the Amen of the Messiah as few have done before. However, if that was the last note of choir for the semester, I shudder to think of how it would have affected our coming semester. As it stands now, there is not a choir member who did not put his heart and soul into what we did this weekend, and there is not a member who did not experience the gift that God gave us last night. That performance has already touched how the choir will come together to sing next semester, both on tour and in concert. Thanks be to God! Amen!


MOM said...

Wow, Jenn! It must be wonderful to be part of a choir that sings like that! I'm so thankful that you have the opportunity!

sarah. said...

Great post, Jenn.

I really wish that I could have been there to hear you and Brian sing. I am going to put on the Messiah right now. I miss it!