Last week at this time, we (the Symphonic Choir) had finished one lengthy orchestral rehearsal for Felix Mendelssohn’s masterpiece oratorio, Elijah, and were preparing for another. Conducted by Dr. Miller, we had only one performance of this work, which featured soloists from the choir except for Elijah, whose role was sung by baritone Timothy Lefevre.
Our performance Saturday night with the Westminster Festival Orchestra was quite a marathon, and an epic musical journey in the truest sense. The choir was on a steeply raked stage, formed with various heights of platforms. I was in the back row, and walking up to our seats was like ascending a small, mighty mountain, made mightier by the presence of performance dress.
I was also the last woman in my row, and being on the border of man-land is always a, humm, visceral experience. It was quite warm on the top platform, as all of the cool air was absorbed long before it reached our summit. And it isn’t that the tenors are fragrant by nature, but the combination of a busy performance season, the heat lamps known as stage lights, and the high cost of dry-cleaning in Princeton made for an Elijah experience that felt very much like we were actually ancient ascetics living in a desert.
The soloists from the choir were out-of-this-world remarkable. Mark Laseter, tenor, set the tone for a world-class performance with the aria “If With All Your Hearts.” Kelsey Stark, soprano, had the audience enraptured as she sang “Hear Ye, Israel” to open the second half of the performance. I was in tears when Kyle van Schoonhoven wrenched our collective hearts with the tenor aria “Then Shall the Righteous Shine Forth.” Every soloist was well prepared and expressive, and each provided still further evidence of the professionalism and artistry that is the hallmark of the Westminster ensembles.