Thursday, March 19, 2009

Treat upcoming for my British readers: Handel's Messiah

Wish I were there!

It's awfully hard to find a live performance of Messiah in my Godforsaken wasteland. I have been to three singalongs in the last 20 years, and one live performance. (I attended another live performance, but it was in the Glendale area; wonderful bass singer, actually a former schoolmate.)

I enjoyed them all. The local live performance was... memorable. I don't know how to describe it in print. First, the alto was so wonderfully good she brought chills and tears. Splendid, simply splendid.

What was odd was the way the chorus handled the long-held notes. If you know the oratorio, you know what I mean. For instance, when they sing "For unto us a child is born," that last word is drawn out and played over a number of notes — "Bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o...." etc.

Well, instead of doing that, this chorus would sing "Bo-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da..." etc.

I don't doubt it was easier to sing, but the effect, if you're accustomed to the other way, was... a bit startling.

Still, I enjoyed the presentation.

27 comments:

SolaMommy said...

You should come to NYC :-)

Shinar Squirrel said...

There is a local (secular) group here that puts on the Christmas portions (+ the Hallelujah chorus) at Christmas, but I have never heard the whole Messiah live. That would be nice!

And He shall reign for ever and ever

The Squirrel

Solameanie said...

Shame on them for bah da da. They're supposed to be singing Handel, not The Mamas and the Papas.

Carol Jean said...

You're my long lost brother, Dan. You appreciate Chicago AND Handel's Messiah? You ROCK!

"...the way the chorus handled the long-held notes."

Punny.

DJP said...

Oh! Ow! I didn't even see that!

Jay said...

Messiah is one of those many pieces that makes me wish I could sing.

Well, theoretically I can sing, but it often comes out sounding like an angry cat with bronchitis. On the upside, I've been told I can do a smashing Rod Stewart/Macy Gray impression.

Not sure if that person was complimenting me or insulting me...

DJP said...

Yeah, well, at least nobody's saying you look like John Stinking Malkovich.

Julie said...

An angry cat with bronchitis... nice Jay ;-)

I, too, love the Messiah. I have 3 versions on CD I like to listen to all year long, but there's nothing like a (good!) live performance.

Still, I'm not sure I would've liked the bobba do bop do bop version. Wow.

I had hoped to join our county's sing-a-long this winter, but had just come off a tonsillectomy. Maybe next year...

chrish said...

I had the privilege of singing the entire Messiah with a Christian college choir. I wrote about the experience, but in brief, I don't believe I have ever worshipped that way with so many other believers.

This is not a slap against any of the groups I have worshipped with, but there is something truly amazing about Messiah.

chrish said...

One more thing: if you have not, please please please listen to the last two songs (Worthy is the Lamb, and Amen) together. Revelation dances in my head every time I hear it, and I got a little choked up to sing it.

DJP said...

It is indeed an absolute marvel. I never tire of it, year after year. It's a great joy to me that my kids love it and sing it as well.

Shinar Squirrel said...

I’ve got to admit that I get an eerie feeling sometimes listening to my copy of the Messiah. You see, it's performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir…

The Squirrel

DJP said...

Yeah. That's one I haven't bothered to buy, and I have 5 or 6 versions at least.

Aaron said...

which is your favorite version? I was going to get one. I've never heard the whole thing, only bits and pieces that I've downloaded.

DJP said...

We actually discussed that here. I still don't have a total favorite.

Shinar Squirrel said...

It was a gift :-)

Actually, Dan, it's really well done. They don't mess with it or anything. (I'll admit that I did sit down and listen to it once through while following along with the score, just to be sure)

The Squirrel

Rachael Starke said...

Pre-kids and dwindling budgets for such things, my husband and I used to go to one every year at Davies Hall in the heart of San Francisco. It was always sold out, and it was an....interesting....experience to hear so many people sing so passionately the very same gospel they work so equally passionately to reject every other day of the year.

And good grief on the whole da da da thing!!! Those sections are what separate the good choirs from the other kind! What's next, taking out all the high notes so the poor wittle sopwanos don't have to hurt themselves??

Fred Butler said...

Just once I would like to remain seated during the Hallelujah chorus. Standing ruins the moment for me.

Stefan said...

The Messiah must be the singlemost evangelical piece of work in the standard classical repertoire (credit for which goes to the librettist, one Charles Jennens), and a beautiful composition to boot.

Stefan said...

By the way, Jennens was a "non-jurist." Apparently, these were high-church Anglicans who could not accept William of Orange as the rightful king (James II having been deposed) and supported James II despite his being a Catholic. They lost their ecclesiastical posts after William came to power, but being conscientious Anglicans, were as anti-Catholic as they were anti-Dissenter, and could not in good conscience seek refuge in the Catholic church.

One day when I have year or two to spare, I'll try to get my head around the history of Protestantism in 17th-century England....

Susan said...

Ugh! "Bo-da-da-da..."!? Takes all the majesty out of that magnifique piece of music!!!
We've sung some selections of The Messiah when I was a church choir soprano...absolutely LOVED the pieces. "Unto Us A Child Is Born" was one of my favorites, and I can still sing along to that and other Messiah tracks on my iPod. How could they mess up one of MY all-time favorites like THAT?? (I've got to go to one of them sing-alongs--hopefully they won't butcher it like that down here in SoCal....)

Susan said...

(Solameanie's right on the $ about the Mamas and the Papas, BTW.

And the great thing about the entire oratorio is that the libretto is straight from Scripture. Just the other day I was listening to "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates" en route to work, and on the way home that same day I turned on Max McLean's Listener's Bible (ESV). The next thing I knew: "Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in..." (Psalm 24). I had to chuckle because I didn't plan this!)

Connie said...

I can never get enough of Handel's Messiah--listen to it almost every morning during my Bible reading. A local Lutheran church does a portion of Messiah each Christmas--all non-professionals but still quite enjoyable!

Carol Jean said...

My high school used to sing the Hallelujah Chorus every year to conclude our Christmas program. I still lustily belt out the alto part any chance I get!

It's scandalous to think of the OVERTLY Christian songs we sang at that PUBLIC high school in the '80's One song was, "I can do all things, through Jesus my Lord and Savior, I can do all things, through Him who strengthens me." How'd we get away with those songs? Where was the ACLU back then?

Stefan said...

The libretto (together with Scripture references) is available here.

Stefan said...

Carol Jean:

Yeah. Ditto for Christmas carols. And my atheist Mom had a book chock full of Gospel truth right in our living room...the Fireside Book of Folk Songs, with all its carols. In hindsight, that was my earliest exposure to the Gospel!

Carol Jean said...

Stefan,

It does break my heart to think of the Jehovah's Witness boy who had to be "excused" for all of the "Christian" stuff - plus all the patriotic stuff. He died at as a young adult after a very troubled life. Sigh.

I suppose if I had a kid in public school today and the powers that be in government were choosing the "spiritual songs," my kid would probably be sitting in the office too.