MESSIAH: An Oratorio

  • MESSIAH: An Oratorio, George Frederic Handell
  • Roy Thomson Hall
  • Dec. 16 – Dec. 21
MESSIAH: An Oratorio

MESSIAH: An Oratorio

The Messiah is many things to many people. To some religions he has yet to arrive, while others have embraced various prophets as their Messiah. In our culturally diverse community, it is important to remember that more people on this planet do not celebrate Christmas than do. The legacy, however, bestowed upon us by the glorious Church must be cherished. We adore its architecture, its artwork, its patronage of culture and, of course, its music.

Therefore let us embrace Handel’s glorious masterpiece. Set in Roy Thomson Hall, a smaller than usual orchestra (Handel’s score requests less that 80 players) the magnificent Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (almost 200 strong) 4 soloists and one Maestro are the ingredients for an evening to remember. Now let’s see if all of the instructions are followed correctly and if any variations to this caloric feast can be tolerated.

Now for the fun! Sir Andrew Davis, conductor Laureate of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, has added a few of his own touches to this production. He has gently re-orchestrated parts of the whole, but in his own inimitable fashion has invigorated the orchestra, and indeed the choir as well, to places never visited before by either except in their minds’ eye. As is his custom, Maestro Davis explores sounds and tones and melds them into inspired moments on stage. Some of Sir Andrew’s joy comes through with Marimba for a few bars. We hear percussion in places never heard before. And how appropriate to hear sleigh bells to affirm that this wondrous piece of almost 300 years ago can adapt and be aurally relevant and exciting today. When the piccolo answers the magnificent voice of Soprano Andriana Chuchman one senses the intimacy possible with such numbers surrounding. Mezzo Jill Grove is as lyrical as one can imagine the role can be sung. She fully comprehends what she is singing and transfers that comprehension to us, the audience. Our tenor, Toby Spence, is so comfortable with the role that with virtually no strain he propels us into a stratosphere not previously heard.  Basso John Relyea is, as he should be, nothing short of inspirational.

When all is said and done, let us therefore rejoice in this, Sir Andrew Davis’ crowning achievement. It is a refreshing, slightly new Messiah. It reminds us that music is a living art form and it matters not when it was written; if it is splendid it will remain. It if it a masterpiece it will withstand both time and clever tampering.

Enjoy and embrace this Messiah. You will be better for it.

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