Sunday, December 7, 2014

Handel’s Messiah: a classical start to the Christmas season…

St. John Vianney, Mentor OH, Sunday - December 7th at 7 p.m.

From the time I was small, I remember hearing the Hallelujah Chorus during the holidays.  I think it was one of the cuts on a Mantovani album of classical music my parents used to pop onto the turntable while decorating.  I was about 28 years old when a friend talked me into joining the Messiah Chorus of Lake County.  I had no idea how extensive a score I would be required to learn, because I had never heard the rest of the piece.  At the time, I was a young second soprano, but prone to allergy driven bronchitis, so when the seconds had to sing the first soprano line, the muscles in my neck screamed.  I lasted until the half-way break, then moved over to the alto section where there was no straining to hit the high notes.  I’ve been there ever since.
This year, I’m singing Messiah for the 31st time.  I’ve only missed singing two years; once when heavily pregnant with Meredith and once when I was a confirmation sponsor at my own church on the day of the concert.  It sounds like a long time, but this group has been performing Messiah annually for 66 years, and one woman has sung in 65 of those!

I’m but one of 170 voices, singing in harmony with harpsichord, piano, organ, trumpet and strings.  The Messiah Chorus of Lake County is comprised of singers and musicians from all of Northeast Ohio.  They come here from as far away as Strongsville or Orwell or Middlefield or Mantua.  Our trumpet player comes from Kent.  Our concert pianist lives in Cincinnati.  Our professional soloists are scattered all over the area.  They come in questionable weather and sometimes on nasty, icy roads.  And yet they come.

They come from churches of all denominations.  Some come who don’t attend any church of any denomination.

They come to sing, to perform, and to raise music to the highest level.  Handel’s Messiah is not just classical music.  It is not only scripture put to music.  It is a profound and moving spiritual experience for those performing and for those attending.  But to get the full effect, the miracle of the music, the magic of the performance, you have to attend...and you have to stay to the end.  The piece is not over when the Hallelujah Chorus is finished.  Those who leave after the Hallelujah Chorus miss the best and most inspiring part of the concert.

Taken as a whole, it is a powerful, goose-bump raising, enervating evening that no recording can equal.  I urge anyone who has never before experienced a live performance of Handel’s Messiah to attend.  If you can’t attend the performance at St. John Vianney in Mentor, Sunday at 7 p.m., then find another performance in the area during this holiday season and make it a point to go.