The Domestic WarHorse attends Messiah Rehearsal
By Rachel Mendell
Monday night I attended another rehearsal of The Messiah, a production done each year during the first weekend in December. Choir members meet on Monday nights through November to work through a large portion of the pieces in the oratorio that Handel composed many years ago.
This will be my seventh year of singing in The Messiah. Every year I learn something different. Every year the director takes a fresh look at each piece of the story, at each song. During rehearsal we choir members can be seen erasing some of the breath marks from years before and emphasizing new ones. We get an intense review of diction, tone, rhythm, intonation, the best vowels to make the rafters ring, and (God help us) breath support for those high notes.
We learn a little bit more about Handel each year as well. For example, it only took him 28 days to compose the entire thing and he was in ill health and just about broke when he wrote it. We learn the difference in the Romantic style of singing “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” and the Baroque style in which it was written, and how to make sure we are making that style come across clearly.
Each year there is lots of work behind the scenes, collecting the funds needed to put the production on, bringing in snacks for hungry choir members (many of which don’t have a chance to grab supper before rehearsals), decorating, tearing down and setting up, ushering, seating, cleaning, recording, promoting, creating the posters, doing mailers, and making sure the heat is on to warm up cold voices.
Each year folks in the community house some of the instrumentalists that perform with the choir each year. These musicians are hand-picked and come to us from as far away as Columbus, Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati (sometimes even farther), usually braving snow and bad driving conditions to do so. Yes, they are paid for their weekend in Galion, but it barely covers fuel and certainly not time. They come for the same reason we do.
Choir members themselves come from Ashland, Mansfield, Crestline, Bucyrus, Mount Gilead, just for a chance to participate in this project each year. They have no opportunity to do this production anywhere else.
We all gather this same time every year because we love to participate in The Messiah Event. We are just humble church choir people, although a few of us are soloists. We come because we get to be a part of a much larger thing – an 80-voice choir and a 12–16 member Baroque orchestra.
I look forward to the rehearsals and the performance every year. I see people I haven’t seen since the last performance. I learn new things and I get my voice in shape for singing Christmas carols. And it isn’t about how well I sing. It’s about working together as one to produce a special sound, to share a special message.
If you have never heard The Messiah, I encourage you to join us Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. in the First United Church of Christ on Harding Way West in Galion. Take a seat in the back if you feel more comfortable there and when the concert is done you can join us for snacks in the basement. If you are a choir member, even if you haven’t sung since high school, please consider joining us. The first year of rehearsals is a little overwhelming at first, but there are plenty of experienced singers to sit next to. We’ll help you out.
Hope to see you all there. Happy Thanksgiving!