Every valley, and sing-along, shall be exalted
Not to belabor the holiday music theme, but since I have committed that most cliched and Grinch-like of critical sins by waxing less than enthusiastic about "Messiah" (which is right up there with slamming "The Nutcracker") -- and because the annual wave of "Messiahs" starts to break tonight on DC's shores -- I thought I'd atone by starting a list of Messiah performances in the area. Have I left one out (apart from ones that have already taken place)? Have you seen one you liked? Does anyone sing along, and if so, how long did it take you to master the melismas in "And he shall purify"? Send me links, post your thoughts, highlight your favorite excerpts, and let me know if there's one you think we shouldn't miss.
What struck me as I was compiling this list is how much participation is a part of the "Messiah" tradition. For all our concerns that fewer and fewer people engage with classical music, hordes seem to emerge from the woodwork every year who are able, or at least willing to attempt, to sing Handel from a vocal score. Think what could happen if there were more musical events that invited people to sing, or play, along with beloved pieces of the repertoire. Verdi Requiem? Early Schubert symphonies (perhaps easier to play than some)? Bach cantatas? It seems a shame it should remain limited to "Messiah," if the urge is there.
(The Messiah calendar appears after the jump.)
Messiah in December:
December 4: Edward Polochick leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and soloists including Georgia Jarman. Meyerhoff Hall, Baltimore, 7:30 p.m.
December 4, 5, 6: The combined choirs of the Washington National Cathedral perform "Messiah" under Michael McCarthy. Washington National Cathedral. Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m.
December 5: DIY, 1: The Metropolitan Chorus presents its annual free sing-along of "Messiah." First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, 5 p.m.
December 6: DIY, 2: St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Arlington offers its annual free "Messiah" sing-along. 7:30 p.m.
December 8: DIY, 3: The Reston Chorale presents a "Messiah" sing-along. 7:30 p.m.
December 9: And yet another: the BSO hosts a sing-along of excerpts from the "Messiah" and its gospel version of the piece. Meyerhoff Hall, Baltimore, 7:30 p.m.
December 10, 11, 12: The BSO completes its "Messiah" trifecta with "Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah" under Marin Alsop. Thursday
Friday at 8 p.m. (Strathmore), Friday Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday Sunday at 11 a.m. (Meyerhoff Hall).
December 12, 13: The National Philharmonic presents "Messiah" under Stan Engebretson, with Victoria Livengood and other soloists. Strathmore, Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
December 17, 18, 19, 20: The NSO gets into the act, with the Washington Chorus and soloists including Elsa van den Heever and Eric Owens performing the (in)famous Beecham version: early music, this is not. Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
December 18: More DIY: the Baltimore Choral Arts Society offers its annual Messiah sing-along. Kraushaar Auditorium, Baltimore, 7:30 p.m.
December 23: Yet more DIY: the Kennedy Center's free annual Messiah sing-along with professional soloists. Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 8 p.m.
Edited to add: The Weekend section of the Washington Post did an even more comprehensive listing of "Messiahs" on Friday. Great minds.
As for shedding new light on "Messiah," check out this bonus CD, which I think is quite wonderful, though some readers will be horrified.
December 4, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
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