A-a-a-a-a-a-a-amen

I know I said I have nothing to blog about. That was yesterday*. And then, I went to Tafelmusik’s performance of Handel’s Messiah and I just can’t help it. I have to write about it while it’s still fresh, while I can still almost hear the Amens.

The Messiah is probably the single most influential piece of music in my life. My dad has sung it in various choirs since I was quite small and I remember being enthralled by the sheer volume of the voices, the way they could make this weird feeling well up in my chest, make me tense and relax at the same time, the music bubbling through me. I know, it sounds cheesy. I have never felt this way about any other piece of music.

My familiarity and love for the Messiah only grew the year I played it myself. I had been playing violin for two years when my teacher decided to pad his orchestra with less experienced players. I was a second violin that first year and the experience was frustrated but oh so rewarding. To be a part of the music was a whole new experience. I’ll admit I faked half of the Hallelujah chorus and would regularly get lost in the middle of Unto Us. But to hear my own voice — that of my violin — adding to the magnitude of the music was almost awe-inspiring. Perhaps I idealize that year. Maybe it wasn’t like that at all. But I miss being a part of something like that.

(The following year, my teacher tried to bump me up to a first violin. The technical jump that was required along with his lack of dedication as a teacher pushed my love of the music into the realm of frustration and I quickly became overwhelmed. Today, my violin sits in storage.)

I haven’t seen a performance of the Messiah in a few years. My exam schedules and Christmas schedules have regularly prevented me, even when my father was performing. So, when L asked if I wanted to go, there was no way I was going to turn her down. We chose the Tafelmusik performance over the TSO — it was her decision, since I didn’t really have an opinion either way. It. was. perfect. The point of Tafelmusik is small, authentic baroque music. This means no big orchestra and a choir smaller than any my dad used to sing in. Despite the few bodies at the front, the power of the music was hardly diminished.

Some negative thoughts:

  • I don’t like counter-tenors. I felt like he did not have near the dynamic range of the other soloists. Besides that, I kept thinking about what his speaking voice might sound like. Just a touch distracting.
  • I prefer soloists for whom English is their first language. I could hear the accent of the baritone. He seemed to leave off the whole first syllable of ‘trumpet’.
  • Generally, I don’t like solos.
  • I couldn’t hear my dad. It was a little weird listening to the Messiah without being able to pick out my dad’s voice or see him moving back and forth in the back row.
  • Guy standing behind me: I will claw your voice out if you are ever behind me at such an important musical event again. What made you think it would be at all appropriate to hum all the way through the Hallelujah Chorus?

Some positive, amazing, make-you-burst thoughts

  • I sat on the edge of the pew the whole performance. Almost.
  • The performance was in the most beautiful church downtown. I almost wish it was during the day so we could have seen the stain glass. This is the biggest reason I’m glad we didn’t go big with the TSO. The Messiah feels like it belongs in a church. This probably has a lot to do with the majority of my experiences with the music being in small spaces, specifically old churches.
  • The tenor was amazing. I don’t think I had ever noticed someone creating such a dynamic range with their voice before. Comfort Ye blew me away.
  • One word: harpsichord.
  • HallelujahChorusholyshitIwannahugyou.
  • Handel knows finales. I’m still tingling.
  • It was snowing when we left the church and by the time I got home, they were big, fat, fluffy flakes. Now, it’s truly Christmas.

Next year, I want to go to the sing-a-long Messiah. Anybody with me?

(* I also must clarify: I wasn’t complaining yesterday that you guys aren’t reading my blog. I know you’re reading and I love each and every one of you for it! As much as a blogger might insist that her blog is just for herself, no writer wants to send her words out into the world to no readers. But I know that when I don’t post, there aren’t too many people finding their way here every day… My lack of desire to post means there’s nothing for you to read.)

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-amen

  1. Comfort Ye WAS amazing. I remember thinking, “I didn’t know people could DO that with their VOICES.”

    Some guy was saying that countertenors don’t have the same sound power as an alto would in an alto role. I still liked him because he wasn’t going nuts with the vibrato (which…is probably traditional, but I like the clear steady notes!). But I, too, was wondering about his speaking voice!

    Guy behind us needed to be punched in the mouth.

    • This is the kind of conversation we would have had over delicious cake. Next year, I will plan to work from home the day after so I don’t have to be at work quite so early…

  2. Rivikah

    The counter-tenor in the performance that I went to “jumped voices” a couple times which gave me a little bit of a sense of what his speaking voice probably sounds like. I found that a counter-tenor rather than an alto took a little getting used to…But I didn’t mind it. Except he was doing something weird with his pronunciation of “w” sounds.

  3. Rivikah

    Anyway…I have also considered trying to find a sing-along version…Problem: The part that I know best is the bass part.

  4. farminarian

    Did M go too?

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