In the spirit of the holiday season, the Andover Music Department donated the proceeds from their 25th annual holiday performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” to support local non-profit organizations such as the First African Foundation, American Red Cross and Neighbors in Need Food Pantry.
The concert featured a musical partnership between members of the Andover Chamber Orchestra, Community Chorus and a number of distinguished guest soloists, including Barbara Kilduff O’Farrell, Adjunct Instructor in Music, Thea Lobo, Eric Christopher Perry, Adjunct Instructor in Music, and Donald Wilkinson, Adjunct Instructor in Music.
“Considering that we had very little rehearsal for this concert, it went well. We never had such a large percentage of students playing in the orchestra. They played superbly, given that we only had two rehearsals with them, one of them just before the performance,” wrote Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music and Director of the “Messiah,” in an email to The Phillipian.
“Messiah” consists of three distinct parts, each incorporating text from both the New and Old Testaments. The excerpts draw to themes of the coming of the Messiah: suffering, death and resurrection. Each part contains recitatives, rhythmic lines of text that were led by featured soloist.
Part One created an anticipatory mood as the strings section played short, alternating notes while the voices of the soloists resonated with quick vibratos and dramatic enunciation. Part Two was more subdued, with longer and more cautious underlying tones that conveyed the solemn side of Christ’s coming and suffering.
However, the heavy, mournful emotions portrayed in the song did not dampen the lively holiday atmosphere of the concert. As the iconic “Hallelujah” chorus gained momentum to conclude Part Two, the audience members rose to their feet. According to the program book, standing up during the chorus of “Messiah” has been a tradition ever since King George II rose to his feet during the chorus, followed by the rest of the audience.
“It’s just spectacular. What a huge undertaking to get all these people together and practice,” said Randy Allen and Judy Hastings, audience members from Haverhill, Mass. “The mightiness of such a large group just surrounds you.”
“The ‘more the merrier’ approach definitely applied for the singers—everyone was very dedicated to the piece and knew it well. It was invigorating,” said Ali Decker ’14, a member of the Community Chorus.
In the final portion of the concert, string players worked with more forceful dynamics, while the timpani gave a deep, consistent beat as a trumpet played a heralding tune signaling the triumphant resurrection of the Messiah. Lobo and Perry led an uplifting duet that began with the words, “O death, where is thy sting?” As the chorus sang thunderously, the contribution of sounds came from every direction and range, emphasizing that the music was something the community created together.
According to Walter, the performance gave students a chance to learn from more experienced musicians, despite few rehearsals.
“That was the first time we all heard the vocal and trumpet soloists, and they were amazing. It was also rewarding to see how much I and other students had learned over our two rehearsals with the piece,” said Decker.