MESSIAH – A VERY SPECIAL EXPERIENCE
It’s just five weeks until Oriana Choir presents the first of two performances of one of the world’s most loved and revered choral masterpieces, Handel’s Messiah. Rehearsals are proceeding apace, and the Choir’s energy level is high, and rising, as the performance dates draw near.
There are several new members, across all voice parts, for whom this is their first experience of learning this wonderful music. The task can be initially daunting, partly because there is literally so much of it to learn in a relatively short space of time. But somehow, inexorably, the music begins to work its magic and, as they say in the advertising world, ‘it all comes together’.
So many of the chorus numbers in Messiah would not be out of place in a list of choral music’s ‘greatest hits.’ At the top of the list, of course, is the magnificent ‘Hallelujah’. This is so well known that people who have never heard of Messiah, or its composer, are familiar with the ‘hallelujah, hallelujah’ part. To this list you could add ‘And the glory of the Lord’; ‘O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion’; ‘For unto us a child is born’; ‘His yoke is easy’; and ‘Worthy is the lamb’. The inclination to ‘sing along’ with these choruses in no way diminishes their stature – on the contrary, it’s an indication of their universal appeal.
But Messiah is not just made up of choruses. The orchestration of the music is magnificent, and often, to quote a much overused, but in this case entirely appropriate word, exquisite. Beginning with the overture, the orchestra gives its audience a textbook lesson in how Baroque music is ‘done’. And when you consider that Handel wrote and orchestrated this entire work in just over three works, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
And then there are the arias – the solo pieces, the songs that tell the actual story of Messiah, and to which the chorus pieces add comment and collaboration. Oriana is fortunate indeed in having the services of four marvellous soloists to perform the Messiah arias with style, grace and distinction. Elisabeth Wallis Gaedtke (Soprano), Anne Fulton (Contralto), Tobias Merz (tenor) and Jason Barry-Smith (baritone) are all highly accomplished singers. Elisabeth is a long-standing member of Oriana. She was the featured soprano in a previous Oriana performance of Messiah. Anne, Tobias and Jason have all worked with Oriana in the past; all four soloists were featured in 2022’s Faure’s Requiem and Haydn’s Nelson Mass; most recently Jason and Tobias sang in Oriana’s joint venture with Brisbane Chorale, Haydn’s Creation. Their participation will be a major factor in making this presentation of Messiah a truly special, memorable occasion.
Messiah is one of the relatively few works of classical choral music that enjoys a mass appeal, being loved and enjoyed by millions of people who would not describe themselves as serious followers of ‘classical’ music. Just exactly what its appeal is, is not easy to elucidate. It has a special connection with Christmas, to be sure, even though it is about much more than just Christmas. Handel probably did not anticipate just how widely known and loved it would become. But there’s no getting away from the fact that it means a great deal to many, many people. If you know Messiah, then you will know what I’m talking about, even if we can’t put it into words. But if you’ve never encountered this amazing, thrilling, beautiful choral work, then Oriana, with great enthusiasm, invites you to come and enjoy a truly wonderful musical experience.
Performances: Saturday, Nov. 25, 2.00 pm – Goodlife Community Centre, Buderim
Sunday, Nov. 26, 3.00 pm – Brisbane City Hall
For bookings and information, go to www.oriana.org.au