"So, how was the Sing-Along?" you ask. Here's the official word:
Heh. (Registration may be required)
Actually, despite what the OC Register's crack reporter says, there was actual music involved. We did have an actual chamber orchestra playing along, and an actual chorus belting out the actual selected choruses, and an actual audience (600 by the numbers) plugging along with us. I'm always a little nervous about being the lead-off soloist, but my nerves (and my gag reflex) behaved themselves and I was able to do a passable job. My wife and mother - who are, of course, decidedly unbiased - both tell me I did a terrific job. This also the Register fails to mention. (That I did a terrific job, not that my wife and mother are unbiased. Really not their job to report that. Some things are safely assumed.)
What the Register truly did not capture, though, was the scope of community response. A little history would be advisable here. Last year, for the inaugural Sing-Along, we had originally been scheduled to perform in the small theater at the Nixon Library. The Alliance had planned accordingly, and purposely went with a small chamber orchestra and smallish chorus for the performance. Through a scheduling glitch, however, we were moved at the last minute from the theater to the library's East Room, a re-creation of the White House East Room where many receptions and galas are held. We started with roughly the same seating that the theater would have accomodated, but ended up adding several rows of chairs before the performance due to community response. It was very heartening to think that so many of the community would be that interested in a Messiah Sing-Along, especially for a first-time event.
So, this year, the organizers planned a little larger. Added a few to the orchestra and chorus, and planned for more seating. The Nixon Library was more than happy to offer the East Room again, and we felt confident of having at least as many as showed up last year.
We were wrong.
About a half hour before the performance, we found ourselves being ousted from the anteroom that we had used as a warm-up room. They had already been snatching our extra chairs for the overflow, and finally had to open the divider to expand the room's capacity by a couple hundred more. So that 600 figure quoted by the paper really represents about a 33% increase in attendance from the previous year. If the trend continues next year, I have no idea where they'll put us. Can't really do a sing-along in the parking lot!
Whatever the history of "The Messiah" itself may be, as a work of music it's something that has always resonated with me. I can still remember Dad putting together a performance for church one year when I was a small lad. Mom was one of the soloists. I would sit in on some of the rehearsals where I was encouraged to sing along with the sopranos. Made me feel all grown up, that did. The piece has been a favorite of mine ever since. I still have Dad's (and Mom's) notes in the margins and throughout the score, and they are priceless to me as family history. Mom mentioned that it was heartening to see the old family score in use yesterday. Hopefully we'll be able to pass it along to future generations of Woodys (or Woodyettes) and keep the old book in play. Perhaps those kids will appreciate my notes in the margins.
No matter how many times I've sung it, or even rehearsed it, performing it always confirms my impressions that Handel was truly inspired while composing it. Yes, he borrowed heavily from some of his other works, but the effect of the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Taken together, and especially as a whole, it is a powerful representation of sacred prophecies. It has taught countless generations of believers about the birth and life of Christ in ways no mere pageant ever could. It has probably converted more than its share of seekers of truth along the way. The Spirit speaks through this work.
Assuming I'm asked back next year, I hope to see you there. Mrs. Woody and I will probably attend even if I'm not performing, because it's a good opportunity to expose our Woodyettes to something that is truly culturally significant. As they get older, I hope their still-developing tastes will continue to appreciate the beauties of the classical repertoire.
It can only help.