Saturday, December 15, 2018

a messiah

Years ago, B. and I used to go to sing-along performances of Handel's Messiah that would crop up at this time of year, particularly the ones at Stanford's Memorial Church, as astoundingly resonant building. She'd sing soprano and, as probably the best non-professional soprano there, would attract all the other nearby sopranos as someone to follow, while I'd do what I could as a bass.

But we hadn't been for some years - probably since before I started blogging, since I can't find any earlier references to this - until this year, when due to the shift in her performing activities B. decided to join the Stanford play-along orchestra as a second violinist. (Most violinists want to be firsts, which leaves more room for the few who don't.) We parked at the student union, which while behind the church is actually a shorter walk than the obvious lots in front of it, and though we arrived before opening time, B. still only managed to grab a seat in the last stand of violins. I wandered separately down front, in hopes of being close enough to the orchestra to find B. when it was over, and found a tall mustached man standing in an empty row by the aisle holding up a sign reading "BASS", obviously looking to form a phalanx.

Just what I need, I thought, as I approached him and said, "I see you're wanting basses. I'm one, too."

He stuck out his hand. "My name's David."

"I'm one, too."

It was hard to tell how many we actually wound up with in the crowds and chaos of a full house, but there must have been at least a dozen occupying one end of three consecutive rows. I was next to a man with a very strong voice, which put me in a position of following him, useful in parts I didn't really know but a bit of a hindrance when I was more comfortable with the music. However, he left before Steve Sano, the conductor, announced we'd encore the Hallelujah Chorus, so I was able to do what I'd hoped, which was hook my voice up with a more general welter of bass sound and belt up.

I hadn't rehearsed any for this, but I'd worked on it hard enough back in the day that a lot of things came flooding back. I'm not a sight-reading singer, but have to learn by ear, but once I have learned a line by ear the score is my prompt-book and life-line and I wouldn't be without it.

We did the entirety of part one, minus a few arhythmic recitatives, plus a few highlights from later on: "The Trumpet Shall Sound," a bass aria I don't recall having done before; the final "Worthy Is the Lamb" and grand "Amen"; and of course the Hallelujah Chorus. Pretty festive show, and we all walked out warm into the night.

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