As previously mentioned, this weekend was the performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Greenville Chorale and the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra. This is the third year of Christmas collaborations between the two groups. As part of the collaboration we do one concert on our turf at the Peace Center, then drive up the hill to perform the concert on the HSO’s turf. Instead of Hendersonville, though, we were performing at Brevard College.
I’ve done Messiah many, many times. The first time was at Presbyterian College when I was only 16. Over the years not only have I performed it, but I’ve had the pleasure of conducting portions of it with various groups. During the late 80’s, early 90’s I got really tired of it. My preference at that time was for “sing-along” versions, where an orchestra and soloists are hired, but the audience brings their own music scores and sings the choral parts.
However, it’s easy to forget just how majestic this music is, and sometimes it takes a finely crafted performance to remind one of that fact. The big choruses – “Hallelujah”, “Worthy Is the Lamb”, and “For Unto Us” especially – are quite stirring. However, there were some other stellar portions. All of the soloists did a great job. It was good to reconnect with my friend Karen Parks, who was singing the soprano solo. I loved Betsy Bishop’s playful attitude during rehearsal. Keith Jones and Jacob Will performed the tenor and bass solos, respectively.
The outstanding performance of the series goes to Larry Black, trumpet soloist on “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” Black, retired principal trumpet from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, played the parts with a precision and ornamentation that I’ve never before heard on this piece. It was thrilling.
The concerts went well, but it is hard to maintain concentration for three performances. Friday night’s concert at the Peace Center went very smoothly, even with the “harpsicle.” Saturday we made the trip up the hill to the Porter Center at Brevard College. Porter is a nice small perfoming venue, but the size is what required two performances. We did one at 3:00, trekked down to the college dining hall for dinner, then did a repeat at 7:00. While the audience probably never noticed, the third concert wasn’t quite as precise as the previous ones. Even Bing seemed to be getting tired as he took tempi much faster toward the end of the piece, as if he were in a hurry to be done with it.
It was great to perform Messiah again, but I’m glad the busy concert schedule is done. As majestic as it is, I think I’ll be happy to let this music rest for anothre couple of years.