Oratorio Oh No

I volunteer with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and this past Saturday was their annual Messiah Sing-Along, and I had the privilege to work this performance. It was also the same day as Richard’s work Christmas party. The review of the Christmas party gets its own block for another day.

As we live out of town, it would have been too far out for me to go to the show and run back to Waldheim to pick up Richard in time for his par tea. I decided to buy him a ticket for the show. I should have guessed from the look of his face I made a mistake.

We all know Handel’s Messiah. Well, not really; we know the Hallelujah part of the deal. Most of the world does not realise there is a beginning, more of a middle and an end. The Hallelujah isn’t even the end of the work. Ricky O’Bannon of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gives a great historical review:

5 Thing You Might Not Know About Handel’s Messiah

Richard suffered greatly through the performance, stating during the intermission that he should have gone to a movie. He does not like opera, though I told him this was not an opera, he obviously could not care less. I value his opinion on this subject. He has been blessed with my constant grumblings on Star Trek and The Walking Dead. 

Richard told me the combinations of sounds bothered him. I have never played my CD version of Messiah for Richard. He does find some choral performances uncomfortable to his ears. At first, I could not understand, but after taking a step into his space, I realised his point. Unlike hymns sang in church, with harmonies, the voices are singing the same words at the same time. Choir performances are not always so simple. The art comes in the waves of words, interminglings of sentences and the musical instruments filling in some of the voids. The airs and recitatives sung by the soloists mirror opera, of course, but in Messiah, these introductions to the various parts of the story are so important.

Though I no longer adhere to any religious beliefs, this piece somehow makes me miss church. The point of Messiah is to invoke feelings of love, compassion, and the need to believe. I think the history of the work, the process and the purpose for its creation is enough for me to feel the feels. I have listened to this throughout the year, like a puppy, it is for life, not just for Christmas.

I tried my best to make this performance special for both of us. As mentioned, I volunteered this day and this meant I had to leave him alone at times. The concert took place at Knox United Church in Saskatoon, a 104-year-old building, a place of history. The setting of Messiah was perfect, though not written for Christmas and not originally performed in a church (almost an unheard of thing to be done in the 18th-century), this building needed this piece played here. The beauty of Handel’s music and the words of Charles Jennens made for a wonderful moment. I was part of a truncated performance of Messiah in university when I was part of the Concert Choir. our performance of the work was done at First Presbyterian Church in Regina. The vibe was not the same; there was no weakening of the knees . Not like Saturday.

Though Richard did not like the time spent amongst the chamber players, the chorus – spectators were encouraged to sing along (hence the name of the show), and the soloists, the day was brightened by him just being there. I understand not to play this for him on our trip to Tisdale for Christmas. Granted, I do give him credit for not liking Schubert’s Ave Maria, everyone’s favourite Christmas dirge. He skips this one every time. *praise hands* 

Unfortunately, I will still be blessed with Michael W Smith’s Greatest Christmas Hits.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Arts and Mines, Historical Cool Stuff, Musical Fruits, Progressive Christianity

One response to “Oratorio Oh No

  1. In college, I took a friend to a concert of Brahms’ A German Requiem. When I asked him afterward how he liked it, he confessed that he was tone deaf so hadn’t heard the music at all. I was shocked. Why had he accepted my invitation to go? He told me with a smile that he knew how much I loved music and he’d spent the time watching my face during the concert and the joy he saw there. I’ve never forgotten this friend’s heart.

    Choral music can take some time to get used to. If Richard has no background in classical music or little experience, it might be helpful to him to learn about how choral music works and that could explain why some of the sounds make him uncomfortable. Not all music has been composed to make people feel good. A really great piece of music takes the listener on a journey that includes the good as well as the bad or uncomfortable. Handel was a master composer. He’d probably have loved that Richard had given his music a listen whether he liked it or not.

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