Okay, for those of you who haven’t been able to view the entire page of Randy’s website (and I can’t on this laptop) — what I was trying to send you to was his charming and touchingly loyal announcement that I have been accepted to sing in the North Carolina Master Chorale during this new season.
Rehearsals began a week ago, and we’ve begun the season by taking a flying (and I do mean flying! dizzying! overpowering!) overview of Handel’s Messiah, which will be our Christmas concert on December 11.
Messiah is an amazing work. If you’re not familiar with it you’re missing a right treat. Georg Frideric Handel was a German-born composer who settled in London. In 1741, he undertook to write an oratorio on the life of Christ; tradition holds that he completed the entire oratorio — some 53 chorases, arias and recitatives — in exactly one month. Of course, he was using the text of Scripture as his libretto (words), and I suppose music just doesn’t have a better starting place!
Even our rehearsals are proving to be a religious experience — and I’m saying that based on two very fast-paced fly-throughs. I’m sure it will become far more intense as we address the choruses in intricate detail in coming weeks.
Last night we looked at the dramatic chorus, No. 28, “He Trusted in God.” Since the very nature of an oratorio is to present a dramatic work through music alone, without the aid of actors or scenery (which would make the production an opera, which was prohibited during Lent in those days), the choruses have to carry the audience forward in imagining the drama represented by the music. “He Trusted in God” is the mob scene at Jesus’ trial, and it starts out with one angry voice, the baritone section: “He trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delight in him.” The tenor picks up the theme, then the altos, finally the sopranos — one voice, one section, a riot ensues. Over and over, round and round, the mob scene intensifies; only the one sentence is repeated over and over without interruption by other ideas: He trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him if he delight in him!
We, the chorus, momentarily become the angry mob demanding the crucifixion of the Lord who was utterly and completely without Guilt. By our voices, we rage in utter contempt of Him who was blameless, demanding His Blood.
It’s a passionate chorus, and for a moment I feel a little too much identification with the rabble; it will be better in a few minutes when we become the Voice of the Psalmist, lightly invoking “Lift up your heads, o ye gates… that the King of Glory may come in!”