First a disclaimer: This will be a wonderful concert. Especially with the Rutter, the blend of beautiful melodies with children’s voices is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, and I’m sure we’re going to get great reviews. The Children’s Chorus has been doing an outstanding job, and I’m amazed at the quality of musicianship those young kids have attained. The Handel has all of the touches that people love about Handel – choral mellismas, piccolo trumpet solos, harpsicords, etc, etc.
The Rutter piece is brand new, having first premiered in 2003. I think this is its first performance in South Carolina. To my knowledge, the Handel piece isn’t performed very often in this area. Even though the pieces may not be familiar to Greenville audiences, they will find a predictable familiarity with both works. I don’t know if it is really “cheating, but what achieves this familiarity with these pieces is that both composers make heavy use of stylistic cliches that define their particular styles.
The “Mass for the Children” will hold few surprises for those who are familiar with The works of John Rutter. There will be lovely melodic lines with lush underlying harmonies, with an occasional dissonance thrown in to catch the audience off-guard. This style works very well for the pure, vibrato-less voices of the boy choirs Rutter works with. Also expect a very up-beat polyrhythmic section – think Rutter’s Gloria. In this case, also a “Gloria”, the melody sounds very much like the old Spiderman theme song. (Thanks, Gary, for pointing that out.) As predictable as much of this will be, Rutter does throw in some nice innovations, such as the overlay of British hymn tune motifs in the children’s section. The Tallis Canon makes a nice appearance toward the end of the piece with the Doxology text.
The “Te Deum” holds no innovations, much less surprises. If you like pieces hammered out around the tonic and dominant, you’ll love this – kind of like those bands that know only two guitar chords. This is almost less Handel than a parody of Handel. The piece was composed a couple of years after the Messiah, and you can almost swap text from Messiah into these pieces. Handel was notorious for “borrowing” and “harvesting” from himself, as well as others. “And the Glory of the Lord” from Messiah is a direct quotation of his earlier Concerto in B-flat for all those double-reed thingies, and the final piece from “Te Deum”, “Let Me Never Be Confounded”, is a simple re-arrangement is those same melodic motifs.
Don’t get me wrong. The audience will love the Handel, much as they love Water Music. They will also love the Rutter, especially with inclusion of the children. I guess if you have a successful style, you stick with it.