25 December, 2014

Handel's The Messiah

On Sunday my mother, sister, and I travelled to Kansas City to see Handel's The Messiah preformed by the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Preforming Arts Centre. Where do I begin!? From the beginning I suppose, the performance was at 2:00pm, and we arrived about an hour prior. Helzburg Hall is beautiful; it's modern in it's architecture, and the design is imaginative and unique. Now, of course, that's my opinion, but see for yourself here and here.

The first thing we did was check our coats into the cloakroom, which I discovered to be very underutilised. Afterwards, we made our way to our seats which were on the highest row of seating to stage left. Visibility was limited, but as the hall was designed, we lacked very little in sound quality.
The first violinist, Conductor Aram Demirjian, Soprano Yulia Van Doren, Mezzo-Soprano Abigail Fischer, Tenor David Portillo, and Bass Liam Moran were applauded onto on stage and the overture began. The tenor has the first recitative in the oratorio singing Comfort Ye My People followed immediately by Every Valley Shall Be Exalted. David Portillo sang it well, and added quite a few flourishes. Then the first choir recitative is sung: And The Glory Of The Lord. There is nothing on earth like being in a concert hall when a choir of over 100 people are singing (125 are listed in the program), the sound is so powerful you can feel it, it sends shivers down my spine, I'll rave about the Hallelujah chorus when I get there. Next up was the Bass singing Thus Saith The Lord Of Hosts and But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming. He did well also, but I've heard better recordings. After that, the Mezzo-Soprano sang But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming. Again, she did well, but the piece really does not not suit the mezzo-soprano, the contralto yes, and possibly the alto, but in my opinion, not the mezzo, besides the fact that I prefer this recitative to be sung an octave lower by the bass. Carrying on, after a chorus recitative, another alto, alto/chorus, and two Bass, is the first Soprano recitative, is There Were Shepherds Abiding In The Fields, and Yulia Van Doren was spectacular, she was one of the highlights of the evening for me! The Intermission was taken between the first and second parts of the oratorio, which is after the twenty first "part": His Yoke Is Easy, And His Burden Is Light. Some of the recitatives were changed either by omission or by being sung an octave higher or lower by a different singer, none in the the first part The Advent Of The Messiah were omitted or changed. Of the second part The Passion Of Christ the tenor recitative But Thou Didst Not Leave His Soul In Hell was sung by the Soprano (a change which I thoroughly enjoyed), parts 2/12-2/15 (34-37) which are traditionally omitted were in this performance, as well as the chorus recitatives There Sound Is Gone Out and Let Us Break Their Bonds. From the third part, Resurrection; Then Shall Be Brought To Pass, O Death! Where Is Thy Sting?, But Thanks Be to God, and If God Be for Us were omitted (which was too bad because I would have loved to hear Yulia Van Doren sing If God Be For Us). Other Notes: I have never heard Handel's Messiah played and sung so fast, I guess it was to keep the performance time reasonable, along with the omissions. The conductor was amusing to watch, he even left the ground at times. He apparently preferred the choir to be somewhat staccato, which was perhaps for clarity, I wouldn't know, in fact I don't think I can even give an educated opinion on him so I shan't. We all had a marvellous time. But truly, the best part was the Hallelujah chorus. Most of the audience immediately rose when it began, everyone else got the memo very quickly. The sound of over one hundred voices (including some of the audience) blended with the large pipe organ, almost drowning out the orchestra, the timpani boomed, and the trumpet's sound rose over it all. It was electrifying and absolutely magnificent!