Join The Raleigh Bach Soloists & The North Carolina Baroque Orchestra, directed by David Jernigan, for a performance of The Messiah: Taking Handel Back to Basics on Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m., at Christ Church. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here (link).
This concert is sponsored by Linda and Rob Grew.
Handel’s Messiah premiered in Dublin, Ireland on April 13, 1742. Even by the end of Handel’s life, the work had gained so much notoriety as to be considered one of the greatest works of the entire classical repertoire and, in modern times, is often considered the most performed classical piece ever written. Despite our modern context for the piece – Christmas/Holiday performances by symphony orchestras and 100-person choruses – Handel’s premier of the work was performed by about 16 boys and 16 men with a small baroque orchestra. By restricting the piece to only Christmas performances, Handel’s deep and vivid portrayals of Christ’s despair and suffering become obscured under a chaotic cloud of commercial Christmas merriment. And while large scale musical forces may give power and a sense of weight to its slower choruses, the clarity of Handel’s florid writing in choruses like “For unto us a Child is born” and “All we like sheep have gone astray” – and, indeed, the lightness and “air” that is the very essence of authentic baroque performance – is lost.
This performance is focused on taking the Messiah “back to basics” both in its context and musical interpretation. Experiencing the Messiah as we stand at the foot of Holy Week, which begins only two days later with Palm Sunday, allows us to hear the work anew – not from the perspective of Christ’s birth but in the midst of the pain he suffered for our redemption. Our enhanced sensitivity to the sharpness and urgency of the Messiah’s darker movements (“He trusted in God that He would deliver Him,” and “Behold and see if there be any sorrow”) allow for a deeper and greater appreciation for its salvific and redemptive movements (“The trumpet shall sound,” “Worthy is the Lamb,” and even “Hallelujah”).
Musically, as is in keeping with the mission of Raleigh Bach Soloists & NCBO, the scale of our performance will be much more akin that of an authentic baroque ensemble: 16 professional singers and a small orchestra of period baroque instruments. While this musical interpretation may confound the modern concert goers traditional experience of the Messiah, this interpretation will be much closer to Handel’s intentions for its performance. In addition to the fact that this size ensemble is perfect for our beautiful and intimate setting at Christ Church, it will also allow the music to sparkle with a crispness and clarity that is rarely heard in large-scale masterworks.