Paul E. Robinson, Musical Toronto. Handel’s Messiah has been with us for a very long time. A work clearly beloved by millions of people, its presentation is an annual Christmas event in many cities. So why mess with it? People love it the way it is. What moved Sir Andrew Davis to rewrite the piece?
Month: December 2016
Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail. In this season of goodwill and compassion, spare a moment for the forgotten man of Christmas.
His name is Charles Jennens. You probably have never heard of him, but every Christmas, you probably listen to, if not sing, at least some of the words he crafted together.
Jennens is the man who assembled the texts for Handel’s Messiah. The very fact that we call it Handel’s Messiah demonstrates exactly how much we value Jennens’s contribution to the oratorio. Yet a compelling case can be made that it is Jennens’s compilation of biblical texts, most from the Old Testament, that is as responsible for Messiah’s enduring power as Handel’s music. A radical suggestion.
Michael Vincent, Musical Toronto. As for the chorus, the Toronto Mendelsohn Choir were on stage arranged on risers behind the orchestra. The aural effect was worthwhile. Rather than the typical arrangement of situating the chorus in the choir loft, on stage allowed for a centralised and cohesive reference emanating through the orchestra. TMC’s female voices were in particularly fine form, and the overall balance was both polished and powerful. I think we all agree how lucky we are in Toronto to have a choir like the TMC to keep choral music at such a high standard in our city.
Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette. Messiah watch: There was a time when I offered a ritual recommendation of the 1987 EMI Toronto Symphony/Toronto Mendelssohn Choir recording of Handel’s oratorio under Andrew Davis, which even at the time was swimming against the historicist flow by using fairly large forces. Now the British conductor has created a recording of his own “new concert edition,” which applies all manner of modern instrumental accoutrements to the masterpiece, marimba not excluded. Again the TSO and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir are the ensembles. The label is Chandos. I am sure Sir Andrew would agree that this should not be the only Messiah on your shelves. Certainly, it has its striking and high-spirited moments, but I find it rather like a walk through the toy department.
Brian Chang, The Wholenote. Carols are unique to the holiday season. At this time of year, they’re on the radio, humming in the back of our heads, in the malls as we shop, and often on the street being sung or played by musicians across the city. These ubiquitous songs cover every emotion possible: sad, happy, joyful, peaceful, funny, odd, and so much more. And it’s a challenging thing to program carols; people want to sing, people want to participate. Many choirs do just that and invite you to sing along! In the smattering of concerts I’ve attended and performed in the last few days, communal singing has featured quite heavily. And why not! It’s fun, joyous—and how often can you find a venue with 1000 people singing?
Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail. Captured live in December, 2015 (Sir Andrew Davis's reimagined Messiah), the recording features soloists Erin Wall, Elizabeth DeShong, Andrew Staples and John Relyea, along with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. And while this second-coming album affords you the luxury to bust out your hallelujahs in the comfort of your own living room, automobile or wherever, there’s nothing like witnessing the Messiah in person.
Five conductors from across North America have been selected to participate in the TMC’s seventh annual Choral Conductors’ Symposium (Jan 24-28, 2017), led by conductor and artistic director Noel Edison. Conductors will work with Noel and with the Elora Singers and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir on a variety of choral music for chamber and large-scale ensembles, including works by composers from Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn to a number of contemporary Canadian works, including Leonard Cohen’s iconic Hallelujah.
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph. Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Chandos. 5 stars ... "For Unto Us a Child Is Born" and "All We Like Sheep" are highlights, sung by the superb 150-strong Toronto Mendelssohn Choir with a fugal exhilaration that doesn't preclude exemplary diction and precision. They are the starts of the show, but all four soloists are excellent too.
Brian Chang, Musical Toronto. Handel’s Messiah is a masterwork of remarkable writing that has lasted centuries of performance. This work is a staple of the Holiday season, and chances are you will catch a performance of it in full or selections from it over the course of the holiday. Between the Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra/Tafelmusik Chamber Choir alone, 15,000 people will hear and experience the music over a two week period.
Much can be said about the love-hate relationship of Choristers, musicians, and conductors and the work. Today, we’re going to explore stories of musicians who have performed the work and when things have just gone off the rails. These are stories of Messiah Follies.