Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Handel's Messiah

On Saturday afternoon, we continued the longstanding family tradition of attending the Fredericksburg Community Chorus’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Things were a bit different this year, with a new director, revised selections, and a new performance schedule. Chris Ryder conducted the piece at a faster tempo than previous years, and cut out some solos and choruses, including one of my favorites, Lift Up Your Heads. This made the whole concert quite a bit shorter. Even the ministers seemed to be in the express lane, keeping the invocation, offertory prayer and benediction (three different names for exactly the same thing, as far as I can tell) mercifully short. And the passing of the basket was done while the chamber ensemble was playing the Pastoral Symphony that begins Part 2 of the concert, instead of before it. What used to be a nearly 2 hour concert was streamlined down to an hour and a quarter. Probably to the relief of all the parents with kids in the audience. (By the way: good job, parents. All those kids were especially well behaved.) So if you ever thought the Messiah was just too long for your tastes, now you can enjoy Chris Ryder’s condensed version.

We enjoyed the concert just as much as ever. Chris was fun to watch, bopping and bouncing on his podium (see the blur of his hands in the photo at top). They brought back a sign language interpreter, after several years without one, and Rebecca Bennett was so expressive in her movements, it was like watching an interpretive dance. When you are signing singing (type that 5 times fast), there’s a lot of freedom in how you express the notion of the same phrase or word being repeated continuously, or even a single syllable being drawn out over many measures, and Rebecca was a joy to watch.

And of course, there was The President’s Own Marine Band musician, Andy Schuller, back for the 15th year, playing the amazing trumpet solos. “The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I love that part. I admit it, I have a soft spot in my heart for trumpeters. Trumpet fans, check out Andy here and here.

But we’re not done with the Messiah for the year. On Dec. 14, our plan is to check out the Stafford Choral Society’s performance at Colonial Forge HS at 7 pm. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I hear “Lift Up Your Heads.”

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