Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
May 2019
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The trumpet shall sound … as shall 300 voices

The folks at the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra decided that it would be a good idea to have a sing-along Messiah this year, and 300 or so people agreed with them (plus the audience).

The requirements were simple: you turned up for rehearsals on Friday night and Saturday, and then it was performed on Saturday afternoon. Since there were altos in abundance I sang tenor, which I have done on a few occasions now, most recently in Oxford in 2009 (which was, in fact, the last time I was involved in a performance of Messiah). The chorus comprised singers who were “old hands” (including the members of the TSO Chorus who were scattered among the crowd to provide support), singers who might have done it once or twice at some stage or other of their lives, right through to singers who were singing it for the first time (which must have been both daunting and exhilarating). It was great to have so many people involved, from kids through to more senior citizens (although I was a little bemused to realise that I am currently younger than the average age of the group, despite reaching a significant milestone a few days before the performance).


Rehearsal as viewed from the alto section. [Photo courtesy of Beth Warren]

The short preparation time meant that it was a Readers’ Digest condensed version of Messiah (!): about 1.5 hours of performance comprising 9 of the more famous choruses, together with some  key solos and recitatives plus the Sinfonia (Overture) and Pifa (which are orchestral bits). We were backed by the excellent TSO, and there were four really good soloists.


Orchestra and soloists during rehearsal.

A bonus of participating was the fact that the conductor was the inimitable Richard Gill, who had a delightful style, a raconteur’s gift for telling stories, and the rare skills of being able to (a) gauge the most effective things to focus on for maximum results given the limited rehearsal time and (b) know how to help a bunch of variable quality singers achieve that. He was great to work with, and I learned plenty from him.


Conductor Richard Gill providing advice to the chorus during Friday’s rehearsal.

The performance was fun and powerful. Its emotional impact was pretty amazing, with 300 voices producing a fantastic sound (subtle nuance was never going to be an option, but it was more than sheer volume of sound that produced the effect, rather the intensity and sense of communal commitment to it). During the famous Hallelujah chorus — which, it should be noted, is not my favourite of the choruses — I confess I felt a bit overcome, as the words and the resonance of the sound touched a chord in my soul (pun intended). I managed to get it together again for one of my preferred moments, the set of choruses at the end, although for a bar or two or three the chaos of the counterpoint apparently ended up a little more chaotic than Handel originally intended (I was totally on top of my bit, though … for once!). Fortunately it all sorted itself out when it mattered, and there would be some people who wouldn’t have noticed.


Not quite everyone, but most. Estimates have the number of chorus participants at around 300. [Photo courtesy of Michael Kregor]

Anyway, the audience seemed to really enjoy it, the professional musicians indicated that they too thought it had been pretty amazing, and I think there’ll be quite a few people hoping that it happens again sometime.

I’m in that group.

1 comment to The trumpet shall sound … as shall 300 voices

  • mihaj

    I seeeeeeeeeeee you, your right over there!
    4th row bottom…yes – no?
    Considering your the average[younger] age,plenty of time to continue and improve?

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