Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Messiah

A very different concert than I heard Tuesday evening.  Last night's performance of The Messiah was more professional and finer music; but I enjoyed the fun of a community Christmas celebration as much as I enjoyed the performance of Handel's music with period instruments, the local symphony orchestra and a very fine chorus. The soloists were just a step below the other musicians except for the bass-baritone. 

This performance was in a very large, modern Catholic church, a short distance from  a large traffic rotary (these abound in Massachusetts) where ten or twelve large trees were decorated with medium size white lights. The nearby village style mall also had its streets lined in small white lights on smaller trees. Everything felt like Christmas before we even went into the church. It was chilly in the church and the pews were hard despite padded cushions.  But the music was grand and familiar. 

Especially appropriate, the conductor spoke briefly before the performance saying he would dedicate the performance to the people of Sandy Hook School and that "we feel a sadness for which we have no words.  But we have music."  With that in mind I noticed that the first aria was "Comfort ye, my people."  I have heard The Messiah often on the radio and several times in concert halls but I had not heard it before in a church.  Although I actually prefer a modern symphony's sound, this is a moving piece of music, not the least because of the echoes of the King James translation of the Bible.
English, from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, even in America, seems to me to have had a majesty  and clarity it did not have earlier (as in the Chaucer I've been reading) and as it doesn't have today.

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