Yampa Valley Singers tackle difficult Easter ‘Messiah’
April 10, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Most listeners assume Handel’s “Messiah” oratorio ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus, Colorado Mountain College choral director Marie Carmichael said.
“Usually you hear the first section, which is the Christmas section, and then we pop over and sing the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus, which is the end of the second section,” Carmichael said. “Most people think that’s the ‘Messiah,’ but that’s a third of it.”
After “Hallelujah,” “Messiah” continues with another full section, built up on English lyrics that touch on resurrection, the Easter story and life after death.
In a dress rehearsal performance at 6:30 p.m. today and full performances at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at United Methodist Church, the Yampa Valley Singers will team up with 18 members of the Steamboat Springs Orchestra for what Carmichael said is the first performance of “Messiah’s” third section in the Yampa Valley. The ensemble also will perform about five pieces from the work’s first and second sections.
“What we’re doing is basically the whole narrative – some from the first section, a few from the second and some from the last section, which is rarely done,” Carmichael said.
The music in the third section of Handel’s sacred operatic piece is particularly difficult, Carmichael said, filled with challenging counterpoint and complex vocal lines for the all-volunteer, 43-person Yampa Valley Singers.
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“It’s just glorious music, but it’s definitely difficult, and very, very challenging,” Carmichael said.
The Easter “Messiah” performances are a follow-up to a December 2007 performance of the work’s Christmas section; that performance was sponsored by CMC and included musicians from Emerald City Opera and the Steamboat Springs Orchestra.
Run as a for-credit class through CMC’s Alpine Campus, the Yampa Valley Singers meet for two hours once a week to work through some of choral music’s most daunting works – in January, the group performed Carl Orff’s well-known secular cantata, “Carmina Burana.” The challenges posed by such works demand dedication from the singers, most of whom are community members, Carmichael said.
“If you take 40 (people) times 2 hours a week times 3 months, that’s a lot of music,” Carmichael said. “As soon as we got through with ‘Carmina Burana’ we started working on this, so that’s a lot of hours to put in with an amateur community group.”
This weekend’s performances fall within a few days of the 250th anniversary of George Frederick Handel’s death. One of the best-known composers of the Baroque period of classical music, Handel spent years composing operas and orchestral pieces before he landed on the sacred text that would become “Messiah,” his most celebrated work.