A Few Hours Back Home
“Are you a tenor?” a woman asks me in not the friendliest tone as I slip into a vantage spot — fourth row, dead centre, in the Alix Goolden Hall, the former sanctuary of a former church, now the Royal Conservatory of Music.
I tell her I’m not and she informs me I’ve infiltrated the Tenor section. I look around and see signs on the pews: Tenor, Bass, Alto. The Sopranos are stuck on the right side, behind a post, facing the trombones. I grudgingly shuffle over and sit next to a woman who says, “The centre section will be empty.”
I look around for my friends C and J. We had planned to sit together. I finally spot C who looks like he’s looking for me. We connect and he tells me he was sitting with J and the Altos on the left side of the hall until discovered and sent packing to the Tenors.
It’s clear we’re not going to sing along with the chorus in the Civic Orchestra of Victoria’s Sing-Along Messiah. We ARE the chorus.
They’re handing out vocal scores over in one corner. I’m a little nervous now. I haven’t sung the Messiah in over thirty years. Haven’t debated the merits of various performances of it, either, since my father died. It was one of his favourite works. We saw it together at Carnegie Hall in
This afternoon we are conducted by George Corwin, a former professor of music at the
The performance includes nearly all 53 solos and choruses. The music still moves me, still lifts me up. I want to sing the solos, too. I once thought Handel composed Messiah in a divinely inspired trance. But according to the program he wasn’t enthusiastic when he received the libretto from Charles Jennens. It was only when pressed to produce a new oratorio as a benefit to charities in
By performance end, the bit of voice I started out with is gone. C reports that the basses started a measure too soon in one of the choruses but I didn’t notice. J shakes her head in awe at how so many people knew when to come in. Maybe they, too, were raised on this music. Maybe the Messiah has taken them back home for a few hours.
Images: G. F. Handel whose Messiah was first performed in