The Choir and Orchestra of St. Clement's Church will present Handel's Messiah on Saturday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 10 at 4:30 p.m. These concerts offer a rare opportunity to hear this work performed with an orchestra of period instruments and virtually uncut.
Randall Swanson will conduct. Soloists will be Linda Dayiantis-Straub, soprano; Deborah Guscott, alto; William Watson, tenor; and Robert Heitzinger, bass.
St. Clement's is at 642 Deming in Chicago, at the corner of Orchard Street, two blocks north of Fullerton, two blocks west of Clark.
Tickets are can be reserved by calling (773)281-0371. Prices are $20 - $25; $15 for seniors (over 62); $10 for students.
Because I am particularly excited about this project, I am including below my notes on why it is important to me to hear this work in an historically informed performance with period instruments. I hope that we will see many of you there.
John Mark Rozendaal
p.s. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who might have an interest. Thanks. JMR
MESSIAH WITH PERIOD INSTRUMENTS
Given that this weekend's performances of Handel's Messiah at St. Clement's have the distinction of being the first period-instruments presentation of the work to be heard in Chicago in nearly a decade, it seems appropriate to take a moment to note why it is important to us to undertake such a project at this time. The hottest news in the classical music world in thhe 1980s was the reconstruction of the orchestra of the eighteenth ccentury. Scholars and musicians thrilled audiences and revitalized the recording industry with a flood of historically informed performances of beloved masterpieces of Bach, Handel and their contemporaries. A large measure of the fascination of these interpretations derived from the use of period instruments, instruments restored to their original condition or replicas of such instruments. These instruments with their light construction, gut strings in the violin family, keyless sound holes in the winds, and valveless technique in the trumpets, sounded softer in volume than the instruments of the modern orchestra, and the early performances were often flawed by insecure technique of the pioneer players. But for devotees these drawbacks were more than compensated for by the sensuous beauty of the sound of the baroque orchestra and the thrill of committed risk-taking on the part of the impassioned exponents.
Now at the dawn of the new millenium, the critics are proclaiming (again? still?) the death of the early music movement. Historically informed performance, having become widely accepted, has lost some of its counter-cultural cache, and meanwhile we have entered a world where nobody really wants to be counter-culture anyway. Now that the audiophiles have their CDs of the baroque masters in "definitive" performances, what is left to be done? Those of us who crave our Handel with gut strings may well look like antiquarian fetishists in these deconstructed, post-modern, dot-com times. Moreover, instrumentalists of the conventional 'modern" variety have begun to get the drift and turn in leaner, sprightlier performances of baroque music inspired sometimes by genuine interest in "authentic" interpretations, or sometimes simply by marketplace demands.So why wouldn't it do to have our annual Messiah ritual performed with easy-to-come-by modern instruments rather than go to the trouble and expense of organizing a troupe of specialists in obsolete musical techniques?
To answer this question we have to look directly at the meaning of the event. Handel's Messiah tells us a richly complicated story. It is a story which encompasses moments of pastoral lyricism, celestial brilliance, violent action, and transcendent thought. In order to create music which does more than present the story, but actually brings it to life in the hearts and minds of audiences and performers, Handel and his contemporaries made music in ways that specifically expressed the values that they heard in that story. They had all the technology they needed to make their instruments as loud and bright as the ones we have today. They chose not to. They chose to tell the story of the birth of the king in sounds that are gentle, sweet, suave, and thoughtful. They chose to represent His passion in music that strains the limits of these sophisticated instruments. They chose to celebrate His victory in tones that are not simply loud, but radiantly, splendidly, sensuously beautiful. Yes, Handel's notes could be played on "modern" instruments. But a piece of the message would be lost. And in this time when the commercial spaces which have replaced our public fora are filled with the metalic din of poisonous technopop and the sterile strains of plastic Muzak, this may be exactly the piece that we need most.