‘Tis the 12th day before Christmas, and all through the city, choirs ready their Messiahs in rehearsals without pity.
To kick off Messiah Week in Toronto, here are some words from Aradia Ensemble founder and music director Kevin Mallon, on the performance they present on Dec. 17:
As I write these words, I’m in Windsor, performing the Christmas Oratorio with the Windsor Symphony. As you know, next week, I will be doing the Messiah with Aradia —in a reconstruction of the first performance in Dublin, a version we call the Dublin Messiah. So I have occasion to think about and perform side- by- side, two of the great pillars of Baroque Christmas music.
In both instances, I have become aware that although there is a deeply religious audience attending both works, there are also those for whom Christmas is not a religious celebration and yet I must prepare and present the music for everyone. The words of the Bach and Handel are from the Bible and the composers were deeply devout, but I have found the key to presenting both lies in the humanity brought to bear. This is especially so with Messiah.
As part of my reconstruction Aradia is presenting two instances where Handel wrote one thing, but originally scratched it. I have un-done his correcting to see what he did originally. So, in “Every Valley,” we get an extra repeated bar, where later there would only be one. Then in “Thus Saith the Lord,” which we know starting as a recitative, Handel originally wrote several bars of arioso.
Last year we actually shot a little video showing these two examples:
I love the fact that Handel had to struggle with ideas to make what we now consider an almost note perfect work. In fact I believe that he was better off, later, making the changes he did. (The original version of “How Beautiful are the feet,” has an extraordinary opening section for two altos, but a singularly unsuccessful choral section “Break forth into joy!”)
Presenting a reconstruction of a specific performance means that we are perhaps, in this instance, not giving the audience the final and maybe best word from Handel, but it does show the human being at work, laboring in his faith to show his devotion to God. I find this struggle inspiring and am happy to be part of that process; I think it helps us understand the end for which the composer was striving.
Of course there remains enough sublime and inspired music, a note of which is never out of place! For this reason, I am happy to repeat, for the third year, our “Dublin Messiah.”
KEVIN MALLON, DIRECTOR
THE DUBLIN MESSIAH
SATURDAY DECEMBER 17, 2011
Glenn Gould Studio, 8pm
Soloists Virginia Hatfield (Soprano), Maria Soulis (Mezzo-Soprano), Joseph Schnurr (Tenor), Giles Tomkins (Bass) are accompanied by the Aradia Ensemble Choir and Orchestra conducted by Kevin Mallon.
Tickets are available in advance by calling the Glenn Gould Studio Box Office at Roy Thomson Hall at 416-872-4255 or online at www.roythomson.com. Tickets are $35, $25 and $15 and are also available at the door.