Messiah Sing

The end of the year is always a busy time for any musician. In addition to my usual compositional stuff, I have three concerts coming up in the next month and a half, the first being the 16th annual Messiah Sing at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Orinda, CA. It’s a fun event, with usually about 250 in attendance. We sing the Christmas portion with a chamber orchestra, soloists and choir of 40 or so to support the usually quite vocal audience.

The church choir sang Glory to God this past Sunday. Even though I’ve conducted portions of Messiah for the last 56 years, I’m always finding something new. This past Sunday was no exception. At a Sing, everyone tends to charge right ahead, ignoring any semblance of dynamics or musical form. My choir, on the other hand, thrives when we pay attention to “details” like dynamics, articulation and even the meaning of the text.

While we’re working with the Schirmer score–not my favorite, but the one the choir is used to–the dynamics give a nice sense of buildup, starting mezzo (sops find mp on the high f# a bit of a challenge) and gradually building to the triumphant restating of “good will” on the last page. It was such fun, that I can’t wait for our more extended performance on December 3. Now if I didn’t still have a full list of non-musical details to attend to, I would just revel in the music. But attention to detail is one of the important elements of a successful performance, so it’s back to recruiting that final instrumentalist, getting parts out to the performers, checking the stand lights, and working with a wonderful music committee, while reviewing the score and preparing the choir–what a great time to be a musician!

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