Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review - Winspear acoustics muffles Handel’s angels

From Sound and Noise - University of Alberta Students on Music

“Hallelujah” – a hundred angel-like voices are singing. The whole audience gets up from their chairs (a tradition which goes back to King George II). Christmas lights are blinking, reflecting in the red ornaments from the Christmas trees, creating warmth and comfort, filling our hearts with the spirit of Christmas. I can see faces filled with joy, almost shinning. Everybody seems relaxed and peaceful. Last Friday night we came together to experience one of Handel’s most famous oratorios in the Winspear Centre: Messiah.

Linda Perillo (soprano), Frances Jellard (mezzo-soprano), John Tessier (tenor) and Nathan Berg (bass-baritone) were the four soloists leading us through the night. As an oratorio, Messiah stands out from its fellows. The soloists hardly have to sing real character parts, no story is told in the music. There are no narrative lines, no dramatic actions. This oratorio simply follows the words of the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Malachi, the Christmas story after Luke, the Psalms and the Book of Revelation. It tells the Christian doctrine relative to the Messiah.

I was blown away by the choir. And this one was a special one too: the Oran Chamber Choir, the University of Alberta Madrigal Singers and the i Coristi Chamber Choir were put together to form one massive choir, which led to an amazing experience. Whenever it was time for a chorus and all those voices were singing together, my heart started to race, went a little faster than usual. The sound left me with a nice warm feeling in my tummy. If only I could have had a seat in the middle of the stage. I wanted to be surrounded by all those singers. I wanted the music to touch my ears directly. I wanted it to be louder, with no possibility for the sound to escape. But somehow the acoustics of the Winspear Centre didn’t work out for me as well. It almost felt the tunes had no a chance to spread as much as I wanted them to spread, to fill the room as much as I wanted them to fill the room. It felt if someone would have muted the music on purposes. A little mean gnome who tried to stop the music from entering my body, from going through my veins, from filling my brain with sacred spirit.

Although Handel composed that oratorio for concert halls (there always will be a never-ending discussion of the rights and wrongs of oratorios in concert halls) I wished it took place in a church. Not because I think sacred music only belongs in churches, mostly because I can imagine that the sound would be more amazing. I have a big church made out of stones in my mind. With a huge hall and with enough space for this big choir, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the harpsichord, the little organ and the four soloists. That could have created a very open and widely spread sound and it would have touched me even more than it already did.

“Amen” – a hundred angel-like voices are singing. The whole audience gets up from its chairs, arises. This time not because of tradition. This time because they are touched by the music, by the whole evening and its spirit. They want to thank all musicians: standing ovation.

-Nine Muster

No comments:

Post a Comment