Handel's `Messiah' promises to be powerful


Howard live


Hallelujah! That word will ring out 78 times during the Columbia Pro Cantare's performance of Handel's Messiah at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.

The performance will include most of the music in part one (the Christmas story) of Handel's three-part oratorio, as well as excerpts from part two (Christ's suffering on earth, death and resurrection) and part three (the salvation of humankind).

Performances of Messiah are a holiday tradition that can be enjoyed in many ways, but live performances are particularly vivid because of the power of the story and the music. Messiah couples biblical text with music that strives to illuminate the words in countless ways. When the tenor sings "comfort ye," the music is as smooth as silk, as warm and sweet as tea with honey; when the bass sings "I will shake the heav'ns and the earth," the music scurries up and down, the singer literally shaking his head and body; when the alto sings "o thou that tellest good tidings to Zion," the music rocks gently back and forth, like a cradle holding the newborn baby; when the soprano sings "rejoice," the music leaps and exults and dances, expressing joy in every note.

The choral music being performed is familiar and inspiring and, again, Handel uses every opportunity to let the music underline the meaning of the text. The words "forever and ever," which occur in the "Hallelujah" and "Amen" choruses, are repeated so often that they do seem to go on forever.

When the chorus sings "All We Like Sheep," the music gambols and leaps and strays. When the chorus sings "For Unto Us a Child Is Born" there is incredible lightness and joy in the melodies, rhythms and harmonies that are swept aside by the forceful portrayal in music of the powers of this special child who is "Wonderful, Counselor ... the Prince of Peace" (underscored by powerful timpani strokes).

Handel wrote Messiah for four soloists and a chorus. Sunday's performance features soprano Amy Van Roekle, mezzo-soprano Rosa Maria Pascarella, tenor Mark Schowalter and bass Lester Lynch with the Columbia Pro Cantare chorus, plus orchestra and organ, under the able baton of Frances Motyca Dawson, founding director and conductor.

Tickets are $23 in advance and $20 for senior citizens and students. A $2 surcharge will be applied to tickets purchased at the door.

A free preconcert lecture will begin at 6:30 p.m. Information: Pro Cantare, 301-854-0107 or 410-799-9321, or www.procontare.org.

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