Which excerpt from Messiah is buzzing around your head today?  For many it will be the Hallelujah Chorus.  For me it is so many things, mainly choruses, but perhaps most unexpectedly the sound of the Alto and Tenor singing “O death, where is thy sting?” so sensitively and with an understanding their few years each belie.

What a weekend, for Choir members and audience members alike.  So many people were singing snippets of the Hallelujah Chorus as they left, we could have held impromptu auditions – and there were some good voices evident.  I encountered someone just outside the Chapel in tears after Saturday’s performance, they were so moved.    And on Sunday a Choir member said to me, “Whoever or whatever your God, you are bound to encounter them somewhere in Messiah.”  So true, and a sentiment which I suspect Carlos would embrace.

M W Choir is more than just a choir – it is a community.  People look after and feel for each other.  It was touching that for these concerts the tenors commemorated their colleague, Les Davies, who died a few months ago, by following his example of wearing unmatched socks.

So that’s it for this year.  Thank you to everyone who has responded to my random musings.  It will be great to be back at Choir in the New Year, after a hopefully Happy Christmas and safe travels for everyone.

Ready to go!

It’s that peculiar time again.  All the preparations are complete, there is nothing more to do but to wait in eager anticipation until Carlos raises his baton in the Chapel on Saturday.

It feels a bit like sitting at the top of the steep upwards drag, sitting in the carriage, waiting for the roller coaster to tip over the top and start its careering way down and round the circuit at who knows what speed.  Performances often go past in a flurry of fleeting moments, just as one’s memories of roller coaster ride are concentrated in a few mind-blowing thrills.

There was much mutual admiration last night, and deservedly so.  The Choir hugely appreciates the work the orchestra puts in to accompany us so effectively.  Concertmaster Catrina commented that the Choir sounds even better than it did for the last Messiah, in 2014.  We all thought the soloists to be wonderfully competent and engaging.  And most of all we all appreciate Carlos for all his willingly shared musicianship, his attention to the all important details, and his determination to do justice in every respect to Handel’s inspiring music.

I will leave a final word of encouragement for us to the tenor soloist, Nathan.  He commented on Tuesday, “You all give out so much positive energy, and that energy will infect the audience.”   That’s a great compliment.  Thank you, Nathan!

A week to remember

Next week will be very special for members of the Choir.

All the preparation and planning will come to fruition as we move towards the culmination of fourteen weeks rehearsing Handel’s Messiah.  As Carlos said last night, this is the time to see the music as a whole, to feel the overarching message permeating the work by understanding connections between individual pieces.

Some people prefer the buzz of the performances.  For me, the most magic moments come at the last rehearsal.  The music is all together, and there are no distractions.

Distractions?  Well, for those of us who are easily distracted, the audience can be quite a challenge.  Weren’t Fred and Linda supposed to coming tonight?  Who is that in their seats?  Or maybe they are somewhere else?  Or perhaps they are coming tomorrow?Then someone walks out stifling a cough or something worse, and then the doors at the back open and a car drives past or the front-of-house folk busy themselves with the poor stricken owner of the cough or worse.  And that could be just the first quarter of an hour!

There was an opportunity at the recent Sydney Chamber Music Festival to ask professional musicians how they manage to avoid being distracted by the audience.  The answer is that for them it is not an issue, not just when the auditorium is unlit but even when the it is fully illuminated.  Cellist Michael Goldschlager put it succinctly when he said that for him a performance is a contract between him and the composer, (not the audience), where he reproduces to the best of his ability the sounds which the composer intended.  The audience is in a way immaterial; if they happen to be there that is fine, but he would play the same even if there were no audience.

Next weekend we will play to two full houses, houses full of potential distractions..  Maybe I need a few lessons in the Alexander Technique to improve my focus.  Maybe I should discipline myself to watch only Carlos.

Whatever, I suspect that next Thursday will remain my moment of the week.

Together at last!

Wasn’t it good to sing all the choruses in Messiah last night?  After weeks of working on the detail of each one, seemingly at times in isolation, at last it all began to come together.  Next week the soloists join us, then then the orchestra.  At this point the music will be complete; in all its majesty, beauty and glory.  What a privilege to sing such wonderful music under such an inspirational director as Carlos!

Last night there were some really good signs.  The altos set us off with their first entry in warm, velvety tones.  The Sopranos sang the long runs with clarity and direction.  The Tenors managed some very difficult, angular lines in the midst of more melodic sections with aplomb.  And far be it for me to comment on my colleagues, the Basses, but I thought we gave a firm foundation to the rest of the Choir.

We are about to give two memorable performances of one of the repertoire’s most famous oratorios.  We in the Choir, the soloists, members of the orchestra, directed by Carlos will no doubt do the music justice.  So all we have to do now is to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from our efforts putting up more posters and by persuading our friends and family members to fill the remaining empty seats.  Let’s aim for two completely full houses!

Three weeks to go!

As Naomi reminded us at rehearsal last night, in only three weeks’ time we will be preparing to spend Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon singing Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah.

There was a salutary reminder last night that the music is not a cake-walk and that we need to revise some of even the best known choruses in order to sing them to the best of our ability.  And, as Carlos says each week, we must get our heads around the meaning behind the music if we are to communicate it effectively to our audiences.

I wonder how Handel was feeling three weeks before the first performance  This was of course in Dublin, where the composer had spent several months at the invitation of one of his patrons, the Duke of Devonshire.  He had professional musicians and singers, sufficient rehearsal time, and the only issue seems to have been the need to transpose some of the arias to suit the vocal range of the chosen soloists. That performance and a subsequent one before he returned to London were a considerable success.

The success was not repeated in London.  The work was considered too dramatic to be performed in a church.  Conversely, it was deemed sacrilegious to perform it in a theatre or concert hall.  It took some time for London authorities and audiences to find the oratorio genre acceptable.  And the rest is history, as they say.

The TryBooking website alone is selling tickets for 16 performances of Messiah this December, which can only be a small proportion of the total number of performances across the country.  It’s good to know that we are continuing a long tradition in the company of so many like-minded people.