Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Steamboat Springs Sponsored by Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus, selections from George Frederick Handel's "Messiah" were performed by the Yampa Valley Singers with Marie Carmichael as music director, accompanied by the Steamboat Springs Orchestra with Ernest Richardson as conductor, Friday through Sunday at the United Methodist Church.
The orchestra for last weekend's performances consisted of 19 members. Although that is somewhat smaller than usual, the group certainly was sufficient with two oboes, a bassoon, two trumpets, six violins, two violas, two cellos - one a Carlo Tononi, made in 1726 - a bass, timpani and a harpsichord with two keyboards.
The chorus had 43 voices spanning soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Two fine soloists did double duty: Anne DeVries sang soprano and alto, and Anthony Pulgram sang tenor and baritone.
Performed in its entirety, "Messiah" takes three hours. Fortunately, it is divided into three parts with a total of 52 scriptural selections, so it is easy to put together a program of whatever length is desired.
The topic of Part I is assurance that the messianic prophecy is to be fulfilled. These selections are from Isaiah, Luke and Matthew.
The overture is dark and brooding, after which the Oratorio takes us into the light of salvation.
Part II is more joyful than Part I, as we are granted redemption through Christ. Part II concludes with the audience standing for the Hallelujah Chorus, a custom we love to honor despite its origins having been obscured by time and apochrypha. This is usually the end of the Christmas version.
Part III, which was performed in its entirety, concerns the resurrection of Christ and, therefore, is more suited for Easter than Christmas. Except for the first selection, which is from Job, all selections are from the New Testament. Some are expressions of the core Christian doctrine of eschatology, which is that redemption in Christ will bring the dead back to life. "And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Part II ends with the chorus singing the wonderful "Worthy is the Lamb ... Amen."
The high point for me was in Part III, "O death, where is thy sting?" which began with Anne Devries singing alto, and Anthony Pulgram singing tenor, as a contrapuntal, intriguing duet that develops into a round. The chorus then comes in powerfully, intoning "Thanks be to God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Whether or not one accepts the message of the scripture, it is hard to imagine a finer way to celebrate the annual resurrection of our beautiful hemisphere than to hear this magnificent oratorio so perfectly performed.
It should be noted that these performances could not have happened without the generous sponsorship of Colorado Mountain College, which besides providing the lion's share of financial support, also offered a credit course for those who wish to sing in the chorus.