Last weekend, as part of our Christmas, my husband and I attended the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra‘s performance of George Frideric Handel’s English-version Messiah performed with St. Philip’s Cathedral Schola. Complimenting the Schola and the ABO were four soloists–Soprano Clara Rottsolk, Alto-Tenor David Daniels, Tenor Karim Sulayman, and Bass Mischa Bouvier. Of these, I adored Bouvier’s performance, though all gave inspiring performances.
The Hallelujah Chorus is the part most people have experience with. In my early twenties, on up into my thirties, as a part of a church choir and then part of the chorus of the Atlanta Passion Play, I have sung portions of the choir part of the Messiah. Those came back to me as if time had not passed.
The ABO drew upon the version of the 1742 rendition of the Messiah where the work was performed for the first time before a smaller audience in Dublin by an ensemble much like ABO in that it was a smaller ensemble without the usual “pomp and grandeur” (Notes of Program by Michael Bane) of large orchestras. There was a hint of brass but it was not overpowering. This was the setting the ABO and St. Philips sought to recreate.
St. Philip’s Cathedral was an excellent venue, though I expect larger than that in 1742. For a history of St. Philips, click here. I have toured Europe before, and have visited many churches and cathedrals. Although much newer than most in Europe, having been built in 1933, St. Philip’s was awesome. I felt a Holy presence that seemed at home in its beautiful surroundings. of the cathedral.
The program was also excellent. It set out each part in version style with biblical references. You could, and I did after intermission, follow along, looking of each verse in the Bible found in the holder in back of the pew in front of us. It was my first time to hear the Cathedral Schola and I was impressed. The orchestra and the Schola complimented each other, never one outdoing the other by being careful to not drown the other out and staying with each other. There was no tail wagging the dog, which can be a problem with groups who do not perform together routinely. It was truly a magical evening. The ABO and St. Philips is to be commended!