“……..and the tongue of the dumb shall sing”
It is my favorite time of year—Advent. In addition to the usual busyness inherent to the holidays, I am preparing to conduct the choral portions of the Rotary Club of Park Forest’s DIY Messiah-- information about this wonderful event is at the end of this Blog posting—and I hope I will see some of you there. The Rotary does some wonderful things and this gathering together of our community is one of them!
When I began blogging here on Patch, I said I would be writing about music and disability and not necessarily at the same time. This is an instance where the two merge.
I love “Messiah”. Truth be told, it is probably my favorite large choral work. There’s a little something for everyone--from show piece arias to choruses that are both difficult and poignant to recitatives that move the story along while being musically interesting. The story that is told, using scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments, can be appreciated by all.
Traditionally, it is performed during the Advent and Christmas seasons but it is really a Lenten work, first performed and commissioned for Lent. We as choral musicians often chop it up to fit our needs. And, masterwork that it is, it adapts, no matter if we sing only the Christmas portions—plus “Hallelujah”—or the Lenten portions or anything in between. Whatever we do is probably fine, since George F. Handel had different versions, depending on the soloist available.
I have sung, conducted, studied and listened to “Messiah” since I was a little girl. My Mom was a coloratura soprano and her preparations for “Rejoice” are part of my Christmas memories as much as decorating the house and baking cookies are. I first sang “For Unto Us a Child is Born” when I was about 12 or 13, being allowed to sing with the adult choir because they needed more altos and I was singing alto at that point in my life. I learned “He Shall Feed His Flocks” as my first aria of any sort, but not the recitative for some reason.
I was about 18 or 19 when I received my own “Messiah” score—G. Schirmer of course—as a Christmas gift from my mother. Mom told me to learn the arias and recitatives because they were money-making for any good soloist. And I did. When I officially ‘became’ a soprano in college, I began to learn each aria and recitative from beginning to end, starting with “There Were Shepherds” and ending with “If God Be for Us” as well as everything in between. I conducted and prepared “Hallelujah” in an undergrad conducting class, using my own score, and have marks and comments in the margins from my dear Dr. Larson, which I treasure.
Conducting “Messiah” is always challenging, no matter who the singers are. I have markings and notes and comments in my score from long ago performances as well as more recent gigs that remind me anything can happen and often does. I have had to sing as well as conduct a few times, because sopranos have gotten sick at the last moment and there wasn’t time to get anyone else. I have had singers and instrumentalist faint. Conducting choral portions for a “Do-It-Yourself Messiah” has brought the craziest moments, with a youth symphony playing and soloists from the community.
Still, the text moves me. The choruses move me. The music moves me. I can be reserved and professional most of the time but some turn of phrase, some musical line will strike me and tears come to my eyes briefly as I conduct. Some moment in every performance will reach me, jaded old musician that I am, and it is like I am hearing it for the first time.
One of the recitatives always gets me, no matter who is singing, who is playing or if I am performing or conducting. It is sung by the alto, thank goodness, and it is the recitative I didn’t learn as a teenager. The text, taken from the Prophecy of Isaiah, tells what will happen when the Messiah comes:
“Then shall the eyes of the blind be open’d,
And the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,
And the tongue of the dumb shall sing.”
It so moves me, I think because it reminds me of my son, Russell, who has autism and who cannot speak. He loves music and he loves Messiah, having heard it every year since he was a small child. I like to think that recitative is meant for him and all the people like him. I am comforted to know, even in this great work, someone had thought enough to include this text, including those who are not often thought about. And I love it even more.
We invite you, your family and friends to participate in the Rotary Club of Park Forest’s 28th Annual “Do-It-Yourself” Messiah. You may sing, listen and/or participate as a financial supporter. Either way, it is an inspiring and most enjoyable afternoon.
If you have ever been in the middle of hundreds of voices singing
the Messiah (Handel’s) you know how wonderful it really is. If you
have not—you owe it to yourself this year! Please join us. Because
of the generosity of people like you, tickets are FREE!
When: Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at 3pm
Where: Faith United Protestant Church
10 Hemlock Street, Park Forest, IL
Tickets are FREE
The Music Connection Chamber
Suburban Youth Symphony
Marie Grass Amenta, Choral Conductor
Frederick Kuester, Conductor
Lisa Kristina, Soprano
Jo Rodenburg, Alto
Henry Hunt, Tenor
Douglas Ulreich, Bass
Singers: bring your own score or
purchase at the door for $10
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Park Forest and the Music Connection