As I mentioned in one of the posts below, this past weekend Mrs. R and I went down the Washington National Cathedral to hear its combined choirs (including the Middle Gel, in her first year as a senior chorister) and orchestra serve up Handel’s Messiah. Oddly enough, although I have heard the piece many, many times in various recordings and have seen live performances of parts of it, this was the first time I’d seen it live all the way through.
Well, it was glorious. No other word. Canon Michael McCarthy, who helmed the thing, is a veteran of John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir and of The Sixteen and knows his period performance stuff from soup to nuts, and it definitely showed in the snappy tempi, the crisp sound and the subtlety and intimacy that can be found even in such a big piece. (My introduction to Messiah was an old record of a performance from some time in the early 60’s by some big Irish orchestra and choir that the Old Gentleman would play for us every Christmas season. It was a super-sized dirge compared to this and other more recent historically-informed recordings and performances.) Of the professional soloists, I didn’t care all that much for the soprano but the other three were quite solid. And the professional men – who take the counter-tenor, tenor and bass parts of the choruses – were as reliable as they always are. (They regularly sing with the girls for Sunday services and weekday Evensong.)
But the focus for me, of course, was on the boys and girls who handled the soprano part of the choruses and on the Middle Gel in particular.
We sat four rows back from the stage and on the Gel’s side, so I could see her quite clearly behind the bassist. And I was enchanted.
I had already noticed this fall that, after a couple years’ experience at the Cathedral, the Gel was really beginning to step up, to transition from just getting through without audibly screwing up to really beginning to make her presence felt. Her performance here did nothing but confirm this impression to me. She positively radiated confidence and engagement, and I could distinctly pick out her voice more than once. And on top of all that, she was obviously enjoying herself. Indeed, at the end of many of the choruses, our eyes would lock, I would nod and she would grin.
All in all, a wonderful thing.
On a somewhat unexpectedly bittersweet note, from time to time during the performance I found myself regretting that the Old Gentleman didn’t live long enough to see his grand-daughter blossoming in this way. (Friends from the old Llama days** may recall that he commented there under the tag “O.F.” and that he had much to say on musickal topics.) I get most of my own musickal talent from him and I’m sure that a substantial part of that flowed down to the Gel. I’m sure he would have been beside himself with pride in her, as was I.
Oh, and to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it? The performance ran about three hours altogether. To me, it felt more like around twenty minutes. That’s how much.
* I hope that friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo well enough to understand that this post has nothing to do with pretentious, inside-the-Imperial-Beltway-Bubble sticking on side, but is solely concerned with musick in general and teh Gel’s achievements therein in particular. Pretentious? Moi?
** I see that Pixy has returned the old Llama Butchers Moo Knew site to the primordial ooze and therefore that all that was written there is gone. Same deal with the earlier Blogsplat version. Pity. I had often thought of printing out each entry and all its attached comments for the sake of posterity.