Handel’s Messiah

Editor’s Note:  This was also written in December, and we’re sharing with you now to give you some insight into the final Symphonic Choir performances for the fall semester.
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Symphonic performances provide such a unique atmosphere for Westminster Choir College students. We are thrown into the world of a professional musician, complete with early morning bus calls donning business casual dress, mid-morning and afternoon rehearsals, and a complete understanding of our voice and the stamina we bring to the rehearsal. The last statement is the most important, especially when the music involves significant choral parts. Handel’s Messiah is just that: an extensive oratorio featuring the colors of soloists and significant choral movements. Always a thrill to sing and an even stronger delight to study, this choral masterpiece was the concert-closer of the fall semester for the core of the Westminster Symphonic Choir.

The duration of our performances was approximately two hours and fifteen minutes. A long haul of a sing, and the choir members did an incredible job of pacing themselves over the course of the long performance week. Our schedule consisted of a 3 hour Saturday afternoon piano dress rehearsal on December 14th at Westminster, an orchestra dress rehearsal in Avery Fischer Hall with the New York Philharmonic on December 16th, and performances every single night starting from December 17th until December 21st, with a matinee performance on December 20th. Since my time began at Westminster, I haven’t experienced a more strenuous Symphonic run-out schedule.  It wasn’t vocal duress that made each day tiresome, it was the combination of late-night returns from New York City coupled with early calls to the buses that created a fear of fatigued bodies and minds. Nevertheless, we overcame all assumptions of weakened singing and brought beautiful music to the table every night we performed.

I made it a resolution to focus on a different entity in each of the performances. The first night, I focused on the thrill of ensemble unity: how the orchestra provided colors that the choir chose to use or not to use, and vice versa. On the second night, the beauty of the soloists and the narrative each work portrayed. The third night was a focus on Andrew Manze, the conductor, and his gesture and how influential each movement was to the collective sound. The fourth night, the matinee, my attention was on the collective energy of the performing forces after a short 12-hour break. I was moved by the energetic potential each performer brought to the stage for an 11a.m. performance! On the final night, I threw meticulous detail to the wind and focused on giving the best performance I could give. Singing the Messiah was a wonderful time to hone my ears and exemplify choral excellence through performing. Each performance was inundated with a sense of triumph, success, and the victory of a difficult semester capped off with remarkable performances. On to Westminster Choir tour in January!
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About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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