'Messiah' ideal Christmas season start

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If timing is everything, Sunday's performance of Messiah at Walla Walla University Church arrived spot-on for Christmas season.

The production, teaming Walla Walla Symphony with Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, was scaled down from the 2011 version.

The performance showcased cellist Ed Dixon. He was terrific, as was the work of trumpeter William Berry.

Berry and baritone Jeremy Irland sharing the same stage was particularly interesting during "The trumpet will sound." Irland's vocal production includes a pleasing brass-like overtone, and the song became something like a trumpet duet.

Concertmaster Lyn Ritz and violinist Lisa Robertson harmonized precisely in "Thou didst not leave His soul in hell." All the strings fervently kept up volleys in "Why do the nations so furiously rage together," a boom for factories making musical ammunition.

All four vocal soloists -- Irland, soprano Molly Holleran, mezzo-soprano Angela Niederloh and tenor Wesley Rogers -- delivered stellar performances.

Deceptively pushed to the back, the choir is the star of Messiah. The Mastersingers' ensemble diction usually sparkled and it offered an impressive interpretation of dynamics throughout.

Conductor Yaacov Bergman provided pleasing tempo variations and his leisurely pacing of "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd," was emotionally involving as Holleran and Niederloh detailed the song.

Although not perfect, the Walla Walla Symphony/Mid-Columbia Mastersingers Messiah was a great success.

Handel inked thousands of appropriate notes in a mere 24 days of 1741 to create Messiah.

Beethoven called Handel the greatest composer who ever lived, and the quality and personality of Messiah, realized in so little time, leads you to conclude the work was divinely inspired.

I believe Handel intended that we imagine angels singing the oratorio, and he fluidly developed melodies to match the biblical libretto contributed by Charles Jennens. The effect of that partnership is often transcendental, without the awkward necessity of leaving your body, of course.

When the choir sings, "Who is the King of Glory," the question has to be rhetorical. Angels know the answer, but they ask the question strategically to present their case to us mortals, habitually dozing in the jury box. After all, it's Christmas, an appropriate time to respond to attention we don't always deserve.

My hope is Messiah will be performed in town every year. It is truly a great work, presented very well in our little valley between the hills.

Rick Haverinen

Milton-Freewater

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