The Messiah Cometh to Cochran Chapel

As the Fall term wound to a close, the Phillips Academy community received an incredible gift. Although exam week was still to come, the prospect of a long, well-deserved winter break brought about, most appropriately, a “Hallelujah Chorus.” The Phillips Academy Music department presented George Frederic Handel’s “Messiah” to benefit the American Red Cross and Neighbors in Need Food Pantry on December 6, 2002. In this performance, Andover Community Chorus and the Andover Chamber Players, consisting of musicians from throughout Phillips Academy and the Andover community, presented one of Handel’s most famous works. It is known that Handel wrote “Messiah” very quickly, in approximately 21 days, although the extraordinary speed of composition is typical of Handel’s work. What is so amazing about this particular piece of work is that, at the time, Handel was suffering from left-sided paralysis after a stroke. Nevertheless, he produced what was said to “have fed the hungry and clothed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched succeeding managers of Oratories more than any single musical production in this or any other country,” according to an 18th century music historian, Dr. Charles Burney. The libretto for “Messiah” was selected by Charles Jennes (1700-73) from the Old and New Testaments. It is divided into three parts, or acts, as if it were an opera. This special Christmas treat started with Andover Chamber Players playing only the “Sincfony” (Overture). It was soon followed by Allen Combs, tenor, singing “Recitative: Comforte Ye” and “Aria: Ev’ry Valley.” He sang the calm and peaceful piece with great care. Next, the Andover Community Chorus sang “And the Glory of the Lord,” followed by a short recitative: “Thus Saith the Lord” was sung by Marcus DeLoach, bass. DeLoach had a powerful voice that seemed to reach deep into every corner of the chapel. Countertenor Aaron Russo then sang an aria, “But Who May Abide,” very solemnly and very well. After an exchange of singing between the Chorus and the solo’s recitatives and arias, “Pifa,” Pastoral Symphony, was played with flowing ease, creating a calm and peaceful mood. After the orchestra’s solo, soprano Krista Rivers was introduced, singing a recitative, “There were shepherds abiding in the field.” The first part ended after Rivers, Russo, and soprano Teresa Morgan each sang recitatives and arias. After a short intermission, part two commenced with the Chorus singing “Behold the Lamb of God” slowly and solemnly with a very serious air. Afterwards, Russo sang a relatively long aria, “He was Despised.” Soprano Wendy Heckman then sang another quite slow and peaceful piece. A third aria followed, sung by bass Marcus DeLoach. It was a sharp contrast to the previous piece with the fast beat combined with his powerful and strong voice. Part two ended with the very famous “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by the Andover Community Chorus. Part three began with Krista Rivers singing an aria “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” followed by the chorus singing “Since by Man Came Death,” which started quietly and slowly but grew louder and faster, and after repeating this pattern, ended with powerful and harmonious voices. Following this, a recitative and aria sung by DeLoach lasted for nearly ten minutes, and once again displayed the bass’s talents and rich voice. After another recitative by Aaron Russo, Russo and Combs sang duets, “O Death, Where is thy Sting,” in which the two sang harmoniously with vivacity. The last part of “Messiah” was “Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain,” sung by the Chorus, who never failed in their vocal power throughout the entire production. The concert was very successful, the success made possible by contributions of both Phillips Academy and the Andover community. It was a delightful chance to confirm once again the diversity of the PA community and a special treat for everyone before returning home for winter vacation.