Handel’s Messiah

26 Nov

Part of me doesn’t want to listen to Handel’s Messiah again for at least a year.

Another part of me wants to be back on stage again and again, singing it better each time, and reveling in the fun of the moment, the gorgeous soloists, the lovely accompanying symphony.

Part of me will not miss waking up singing a different chorus every day, wondering which one it will be today that follows me around incessantly.

Another part of me will miss having the background theme songs in my dreams.

I will miss having something to challenge me musically – it had been many, many years since I’d sung in a choir and what will fill that void? I will miss seeing new friends every week. I will miss the anticipation – several decades in the making – of singing this oratorio. For as long as I can remember – probably way back when my parents sang in it when I was a kid, Dad taking the bass solo and Mom the soprano – I have wanted to be a part of The Messiah.

In 10th grade, I missed out on singing the Hallelujah Chorus because I was ill. Had I known that it was a traditional part of the Christmas program at my school (it was my first year there) then I would have dragged myself out of bed and sung my heart out (probably infecting the entire soprano section in the process).

But I didn’t know. And I’ve been bummed ever since.

If I had a better voice – and a lot more ambition – I probably would have sung it long before now, as had many members of the chorus. But as it is, I second-guessed my presence in the rehearsal room every week! But I never wanted to quit. Not once.

As we performed the songs last night – to a sold-out crowd – I tried to enjoy the moment, to soak in the music, the ambiance. I was sitting right behind the bassoons with their fabulous, pure, deep notes, which was enough to practically make me swoon. And as for the soloists – well, I closed my eyes and imagined I was in Carnegie Hall, they were that good.

I wished I was sitting next to my husband so that I could hold his hand and share the moment, but he, a tenor, was much too far away in the 70-some member choir. It was fun singing with him, though. He sings a lot more than I do so I enjoyed the rare chance to at least be in the same group with him.

Handel’s Messiah actually features in our courtship. My parents had invited him over for dinner – it was the first time he met my dad, I think, though he’d met Mom before. He came into the house and we all sat down at the table and The Messiah was playing in the background. My dad turned to him and asked him if he know what the music was.

Colin smiled and replied, “Handel’s Messiah!”

Dad smiled in return and, with his smile, told him he had permission to court his daughter.

Colin swiped his forehead and said, “Phew! I’m just glad it was a well-known piece of music!”

Dad nodded. “You got lucky, young man.”

That all happened close to 20 years ago. Last night, sitting there beneath the bright lights, felt like the culmination of that moment.

At various times throughout the concert I squinted into the crowds and found our children, sitting with a dear friend of mine, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought of it all.

When it was all over – after the intermission, after the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra filled the auditorium with the marvelous strains of The Nutcracker Suite in the second half of the program and we’d sung Christmas carols (such a great entrance into the holiday season) and retrieved our coats and returned our music (a sad moment) our kids finally found us and hugged us and told us what they thought. Our youngest, at seven years old, said, “I loved it!” I asked her what bits she liked best. Without a pause she replied, “I don’t know. I slept through most of it.”

And that, my friends, is how our children keep us humble. Because Mom may be having an existential moment. But Lucy, lulled by the beauty of the music, just needed a nap.

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7 Responses to “Handel’s Messiah”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots November 26, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Once again, you have excelled in your storytelling, in drawing us into the moment and scene with you, in sharing your emotions and memories and then, in O. Henry style, popping in that surprise ending.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this story for all those reasons. Thank you, once again, dear Gretchen, for sharing your incredible gift of writing with us.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 30, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

      You are such an encouragement! Thank you. Lucy’s words were indeed a surprise ending – for us all!

  2. hotlyspiced November 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    I’m glad Lucy loved it even though she slept through it! What a fantastic night. You made me want to be in that audience. How lovely that you and your husband were both in the choir even though you couldn’t sit next to one another. It’s a brilliant piece of music and it just isn’t Christmas without Handel’s Messiah xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 30, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it! Yes, The Messiah is definitely a necessity at Christmas – and I’m still waking up singing the songs!

  3. treadlemusic November 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Your post took me back many years to when our community (Houston,MN) did a Christmas choral event for several years. Although the “cantatas” chosen were fun/wonderful, the best were the years we sang the Christmas portion of the Messiah, and once the Easter portion. A challenge for sure, for this untrained (at that time) soprano!!! But no matter….as your presentation no doubt conveyed, also,…..the music/singing is magical and transporting (taking sweet Lucy to dreamland!). I’m so glad to hear of such still being done! Thanksgiving Blessings to you and your loved ones…..and hugs………….

    • Gretchen O'Donnell November 30, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

      So you can totally relate! I didn’t talk about those high soprano notes, but yes, they’re a challenge for sure – but a fun one! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving as well!

      • treadlemusic December 1, 2014 at 5:56 am #

        We had a lovely Thanksgiving with family. It was nicely quiet and the 2 great granddaughters were a ‘hoot’!!!!!

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