John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Advent 2008: Selections from Messiah

One of the scripture readings during the Christmas Eve services I attended last night was Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." As I do every single time I hear this verse, I immediately started singing (in my head) "For Unto Us a Child is Born" from Handel's Messiah. I've performed Messiah a couple times, once with my church choir and once with the Cathedral Choral Society.

That latter performance was pretty interesting. Every year, the National Symphony performs Messiah during the Christmas season, and since they do not have their own symphonic chorus, they invite one of the many local choruses to perform with them. They usually engage a guest conductor as well. In 2002, the CCS was invited to perform under the direction of a German conductor named Bruno Weil. Weil decided he wanted to prepare the Mozart arrangement of Messiah, which features a German translation of the libretto, which was originally written in English. The Mozart arrangement was very popular back in the day, but fell out of favor during the twentieth century. Nowadays, Messiah is almost always performed in English, even when using the Mozart arrangement. Weil, however, wanted it sung in German. So we started rehearsing it in German.

A few weeks later, we got some interesting news: Weil was out, and we would be singing in English under the baton of the J. Reilly Lewis, the Cathedral Choral Society's music director. Apparently, the National Symphony's programming director had approved Weil's plan, but had failed to inform the Kennedy Center marketing department that Messiah would be sung in German. And when marketing found out, they said, more or less, like hell it will. And when the program director told Weil that it would have to be sung in English, he pulled out. So Reilly directed and we sang in English, and we were a big hit. ("The chorus sounded fresh, eager, healthy and fluent throughout the evening." - Tim Page, Washington Post, Dec 20, 2002.)

These are two of the choruses we freshly, eagerly, healthily and fluently performed that concert. The recording are not by the CCS, but rather by the English Consort under the direction of Trevor Pinnock. (I may as well also mention that "Hallelujah" is not a Christmas song, but an Easter song. Deal with it.)

Pinnock/English Consort - Handel - For unto us a child is born (MP3, 1.7MB)
Pinnock/English Consort - Handel - Hallelujah (MP3, 1.7MB)

Previous Advent posts:

2003: A Child My Choice
2004: The Nativity
2005: Merry Christmas
2006: A Cradle Song
2007: Gradual (Initial P with the Nativity)
Tags: advent: 2008, halcyon days of yore, music

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