Handel’s Messiah – December 2015

Handel

This year was the 8th(?) year for me to be privileged to sing this marvelous work.  I sang with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra Chorus in Knox Church in downtown Saskatoon.  It was a real pleasure to sing because for me there was much different from the past years I have sung the work. Firstly it was in Saskatoon.  Secondly it was with a choir auditioned specifically for the work, thirdly it was a 35 voice choir singing as opposed to the 80 – 120 I had sung with before.  Not different was the pleasure of learning different things from two conductors whom I had not worked with before – Eric Paetkau and Duff Warkentin.  They brought different nuance, text stress and style to the work than in my experience and it was quite fun.

The way our choir was set up was very different for me, and even during the dress rehearsal standing out on the wing between an Alto and a Soprano with the closest Bass being three people to my right away led to some timing errors on my part – unnoticed I am sure by the audience on the day.  Regardless, it sure gives you an impression of other people’s vocal talents as well as you own.  There were things that I had not thought about knowing but when the normal stimulus of the rest of your section is not around you you might not breathe at the right time which will lead you to be a micro second late on an entry – these are what I had to deal with – as well as the absence of the rest of a choir around  – being out on the wing of the formation.  Nonetheless it was an excellent opportunity and I am very glad to have participated.

For the dress rehearsal we were in concert formation and it was a little difficult for us not to sing at full voice with the orchestra.  Our soloists were all excellent in their abilities, crystal clear in their delivery and spot on in terms of pitch and intonation.  In some ways they were among the best soloists I had sung Messiah with before – but I was also, finally, in a position to actually hear all of their solo’s through all of the performances and rehearsal.  The Mother and Father of the Bass Soloist also sing with me in the Chamber Singers and I heard about his baby’s birth about three weeks prior when sitting in a meeting with his Mom when she got the text…

We had been hearing that there were fewer and fewer seats available for the main performance and that was also true at the dress rehearsal – in fact they stated that they were sold out – a great accomplishment.

As Eric worked out places during the dress rehearsal we enjoyed watching the orchestra or listening to the soloists.  When it was our turn to sing you could notice the way the hall reacted when empty – sound seeming to travel quite a distance…

When arriving on the Friday night I took a chance and parked in the Star Phoenix parking lot hoping to not receive a ticket.  It worked.  Anyway getting ready for the piece we lined up in the basement of the church and trooped our way up to a full house – around 800 strong.  The night was wonderful, I think we did well and the soloists and Eric were in top form.

Standing ovation over – we were due back again to perform it all over again for the sing along.  We were on track for another flawless performance when our Alto soloist started a solo which was from Part the Second.  Unfortunately it was during her first solo placement – in Part the First.  Fortunately the crowd was very forgiving and for all of us it was a real icebreaker, much to her chagrin…

It was a real pleasure hearing and seeing the audience taking part – many new the work and were singing their parts with gusto.  My biggest takeaway from this performance was the sheer joy in the faces of those who were singing along.  It was quite breathtaking and induced quite a set of emotion in me that I could not sing a couple of the measures as they caught in the back of my throat.  Hearing the chorus coming back at you from the audience is quite the experience and being on a wing of the choir was a pretty good place to hear everything…

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