Magnificent Messiah

Bosque Chorale delivered an inspired “Messiah” in memory of lost chorale members at the BAC's Frazier Performance Hall

CLIFTON -- Thanks to the stunning crescendos, the lilting rhythms, familiar choruses, Georg Frideric Handel’s masterpiece “Messiah” is one of the most famous and widely shared pieces of music in history. Over the years, the restrained Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners has become a mainstay during the holiday season.

The Bosque Chorale’s performance in a packed Bosque Arts Center’s Frazier Performance Hall Dec. 9 of the popular oratorio was as powerful as it was inspirational. Additionally, the audience could feel the presence of Joy Williamson, Steve Watson and Neal McDowell, in whose loving memory the oratorio was performed.

Music Director David Anavitarte’s inspired but demanding guidance pushes the chorale members to improve their voices, develop their skills and talents. And improve their understanding of the musical piece adding to its impact.

“It went well,” Anavitarte said of the concert. “It had good sound, good energy.”

The German Handel composed his “Messiah” masterpiece in just 24 days in 1741. The English scriptural text was compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the Coverdale Psalter, the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.

Through his music and “Messiah’s” text, Handel created vivid images from the spiritual story of Jesus’ journey from birth, passion and resurrection.

“Handel was a genius,” Anavitarte said. “He could create with quill and paper an image in music. Concentrate on the music; what you just heard, what’s coming next.”

To ensure the audience stayed immersed in the music, Anavitarte requested the audience to refrain from clapping until after the last movement.

The oratorio in its entirety is up to three hours long. For the Bosque Chorale performance, Anavitarte chose 11 of the oratorio’s 53 movements that highlighted the chorale’s abilities and thrilled the audience. The result was a wondrous concert, worthy of any opera hall.

“I thought the concert was out of this world,” former piano teacher and Bosque Civic Music Association founding member Patsy Squyres said. “Thank the Lord for out little town that appreciates the arts as it does. We’re blessed to have such a performance here.”

Another Bosque Civic Music Association member Paige Bizzell used words “Incredible,” “awe-inspiring,” “inspirational,” and “impressive” to describe the evening’s performance.

True to the Baroque form, the musical notes mimiced the lines of the text, emphasizing certain words or phrases. For example, the sopranos, altos and tenors sang “Glory to God in the highest,” to be followed by bass and baritone singing “Peace on earth.” Thestrings and piano repeated of the Bosque Chamber Strings the vocals and vice versa, weaving in and out, giving another emphasis – elevating the words.

In between the choruses, the Bosque Chamber Strings beautifully performed three instrumental movements – The Pastoral Symphony, the Overture and the Lift Up Your Heads. Rather than start the evening with the usual Overture, Anavitarte selected the Pastoral Symphony as introduction to the oratorio.

But it is the text of Glory to God chorus, which makes the “Messiah” the ultimate Christmas concert – “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will towards men. And, at the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters "SDG" — Soli Deo Gloria — "To God alone the glory."

Many choruses of Handel’s “Messiah” are widely known, especially the “Hallelujah” chorus in the exalting section three of the oratorio. Anavitarte chose to end the evening’s concert with that famous and loved movement performed. True to form, the audience stood during the last, jubilant and exalting anthem Halleluhah! And remained standing for the standing ovation the chorale deserved.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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