Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sing out ?Hallelujah?

Viva La Voce and Caritas Chorale perform ?Messiah?

Express Staff Writer

Caritas performing at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum. Photo by Mountain Express

Dick Brown, director of Caritas Chorale, will be joined by Solveig Nyberg-Ackert, director of Viva La Voce, to perform a special holiday performance of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah."

The free performances will take place Saturday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum. There will be a performance on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 5:30 p.m. at the Hillcrest High School in Idaho Falls.

Over the last 45 years, Brown has conducted at least 100 "Messiah" performances. He has even participated in the chorus 20 times or so, but said he prefers to conduct. The "Messiah" is Handel's most regarded work and is an oratorio based on a libretto by Charles Jennens. Handel composed the work in the summer of 1741 and premiered it in Dublin on April 13, 1742.

"There are so many myths and legends that it is hard to know what is truth or not," Brown said. "I remember a painting I once saw of angels handing copies of the music to Handel while he looked heavenward with a somewhat drugged look. That is a bit much for me.

"Handel had made and lost several fortunes bringing Italian opera to London. Many of his early oratorios were composed from stories from the Old Testament, based on Jewish heroes and heroines such as Saul, Samson, Judas Macabeus, Esther and Deborah, because he was partially supported by the Salomons, a wealthy Jewish family."

Brown said Handel was so moved by Jennens' libretto that he completed the entire work in a little over two weeks. There is no original score for "Messiah," and Handel was constantly changing the piece to fit different singers and audiences.

"Until the day he died, he was still revising it," Brown said. "Many bad practices and traditions crept into it during the 10th and early 20th century. The edition we are using is an attempt to clean house of these often tacky and incorrect things and get somewhat closer to a Baroque feel for the work."

There will be 120 singers for the performance with solos by soprano Nyberg-Ackert, mezzo-soprano Kathleen Lane, tenor Tyler Smith and bass Lynn Berg. Most of the orchestra is from the Boise Philharmonic and the choir has been rehearsing in Idaho Falls and Sun Valley. All of the groups will be assembled for a run-through before the first performance on Saturday, Dec. 1.

"Physically it is very demanding to conduct, just from the time and concentration alone," Brown said. "To do it correctly and as professionally as we would like requires a lot of work from many people and a lot of money and volunteer time. I feel all of that every minute of every day. I do not want to let people down or do things half way."

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