Columbia’s Pro Cantare presented Handel’s Messiah on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School with Frances Motyca Dawson, Conductor. This wonderful and seamless production was a wonderful way to start the Holiday Season.
Handel’s oratorio was written in 1741 and scripted by Charles Jennens. It was written to be performed in Dublin as a benefit concert for several charities. Handel took no money for it. It was performed without compensation many times in Handel’s lifetime. Handel, who was born in Germany, but later became a naturalized English citizen, wrote the music to be performed in the language of his adopted country. Although there are parts written for different operatic voices, this is not an opera. The Messiah, or Christ, is the central focus of the oratorio. Its structure reflects opera format at that time and is divided into three sections. Part I covers the prophecies by Isiah and others and then goes to the Annunciation of the shepherds. Part II revolves around the Passion and contains the famous, “Hallelujah” chorus. Finally, Part III deals with the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. The different pieces are noted in the program by the first lines of the scripture from which the song was derived which is why they are not capitalized after the first word.
This wonderful and seamless production was a wonderful way to start the Holiday Season.
Pro Cantare has been performing Handel’s Messiah since 1984. It has always been received by audiences enthusiastically and Sunday’s performance was not exception. The four featured singers were Amy Van Roekel, Soprano, Leah Kay Serr, Mezzo, Charles Reid, Tenor and Lester Lynch, Baritone. The four are all acclaimed performers in opera. Highlights of their performance were “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted” (Reid), “And suddenly there was an angel” (Van Roekel), “He was despised” (Serr) and “The trumpet shall sound” (Lynch).
However, it is the Chorus that is the centerpiece of this score whether it be the opening piece, “And the glory of the Lord”, “Glory to God” toward the end of Part One, or the famous “Hallelujah” chorus at the end of Part Two. There is great joy in these pieces. You can even see it in the chorus member’s faces as they sing. It is traditional since Handel’s time to stand for the “Hallelujah” chorus, but you feel compelled to do so even if you know nothing about the tradition.
The Festival Orchestra was made up of all fine musicians. However, their accompaniment is mostly a string section and a positif organ (Henry Lowe) and trumpets and tympani were added for the “Hallelujah” and stayed on until the end. Susan Rider’s trumpeting was magnificent in “The trumpet shall sound.”
Dawson leads both the Festival Orchestra and the singers. This tiny woman has become a giant in Columbia. Not only conducting for Pro Cantare year in and year out but making the group a musical force in Howard County. This production’s success is due to her leadership and talent.
Running Time: Two Hours and 30 minutes with an Intermission.
If you missed, this performance, Pro Cantare will be back with-it next Holiday Season. You can also catch the Chorus for A Christmas Noël, Dec. 9th, 20th Century European Composers, March 17th and Salute to Gershwin & Jerome Kern, May 4th. Pro Cantare will also be holding a New Year’s Eve Soirée Fundraiser.
As the Holidays approach in these turbulent times, it is comforting to have groups like Pro Cantare who can be relied on to perform beautiful music like Messiah that make our hearts soar and help us forget the problems of the world for a couple of hours.
Disclaimer: Susan Brall has a friendship with a member of Pro Cantare. However, this did not influence her review.
For further information for other performances contact Pro Cantare.