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Handel's magnificent Messiah

Katie Pergau, Special to the Examiner

Vocal Horizons Chorus and Orchestra.

Vocal Horizons Chorus and Orchestra. SUBMITTED

When I looked at my season subscription to the Barrie Concert Association series, I saw many concerts that were of interest to me, due to their unique and innovative nature.

When my eye fell upon the presentation of Handel’s Messiah, I was less excited. Handel’s Messiah is an old stand-by, traditional holiday fare, presented by professional and amateur groups alike.

As I walked into Hi-Way Pentecostal Church for the recent concert it was obvious from the full house that this work is a fan favourite and the audience was eager for the presentation.

Presented by the Vocal Horizons Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Vincent Cheng, it was interesting to see a truly Baroque orchestra arrangement with only one cello and one bass, along with a traditional harpsichord. We all settled back in our seats and enjoyed Bruce’s light opening remarks as he encouraged the front row of young musicians in the audience to “open their hearts and souls so that the music could speak” to them. With that, the orchestra began the Sinfonia Overture and immediately it felt like I was being embraced by an old friend.

The warmth and attention to the musical line presented by the orchestra was beautiful. Gone were my blasé feelings and I sat back ready to thoroughly enjoy this performance.

Joining this presentation was Toronto Tenor Kent Tisher.

While Kent’s performances have been focused in the musical theatre genre, his lovely classical tenor tones and ornamentation work in the air, “Ev’ry Valley” soared through the hall. In a wonderful, dark contrast to Tisher’s light tenor performances was Vancouver-born Baritone, Michael Robert-Broder.

His performance of “Why Do The Nations” in the second half was brilliant, showing great control of the difficult runs that Handel was so fond of. But the real star of this performance was the chorus.

Their attention to conductor Cheng was nearly flawless as shown by their excellent entries and cut-offs. The program notes included a quote from Laurence Cummings, director of the London Handel Orchestra, in which he stated, “In Messiah, the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages”. This was certainly true this night.

The fiery “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs” was wonderfully executed and the difficult opening passages of “And With His Stripes” were perfectly in tune. Joining the orchestra for the “Hallelujah Chorus” and “The Trumpet Shall Sound” were two trumpets and the timpani.

The piccolo trumpet in particular added a lightness in tone that filled the hall effortlessly.

With the wonderful chorus and excellent orchestra, this was a beautiful way to kick off the Christmas season and was a welcome addition to my season subscription to the Barrie Concert Association season.


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