Don't Miss This Messiah
An original 2023 story sponsored by Early Music Vancouver
From Shakespeare’s plays to Michelangelo’s paintings, some artworks transcend time and continue to speak to us despite being created many centuries ago. And at Christmastime, that signature masterwork is undoubtedly Handel’s Messiah.
“It’s one of the greatest pieces by one of history’s greatest composers,” says Alex Weimann, who is conducting the landmark piece for Early Music Vancouver (EMV) and the Vancouver Chamber Choir at the Orpheum Theatre on December 8––complete with the revered choir, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and a gathering of guest soloists.
For Weimann, the celebrated oratorio––first presented in Dublin in 1742––is still being performed because it directly addresses the eternal cycle of life, from birth to passion to death. And that’s an enduring theme that will always connect with audiences, no matter which century they were born in.
“Handel was trying to tell a story that is relevant to every one of us and that everyone could understand,” adds Weimann. “For me, this is not exactly a religious piece. It’s actually more universal and humanitarian. Which is why you have to do it in its entirety for it to make sense.”
The December concert is not Weimann’s first tussle with the piece. And every time he conducts it, his understanding evolves. “One of the mysteries of Handel's Messiah is that it doesn’t make much sense if you study it on paper,” he says with a chuckle. “But something strange happens and it comes to life in performance––a performance that always moves those who experience it.”
It helps, of course, to have top-notch musicians to work with. “This piece needs a very good choir to channel the passion of the piece and we certainly have that,” says Weimann, adding that the Pacific Baroque Orchestra––which deploys period techniques and antique or reproduction vintage instruments––makes modern audiences listen to what might be familiar pieces in a fresh way.
“Our approach with this Messiah is to open a new lens on the piece, which I think will surprise those who already know it,” says Weimann. “But we’re still trying to catch the essential vivaciousness of what was Handel’s most personal and confessional work. For us, this performance will be less of a ritual and more musical theatre.”
Which is not to say the one-night-only Vancouver concert is restricted to classical music connoisseurs. Far from it, says Weimann. “Like Andrew Lloyd Webber today, Handel was above all a communicator who was trying to connect with everyone. In fact, his entire career was about that. If you have never experienced this piece before, trust us and open yourself to it.”
Whether you’re a Handel doyen or a Messiah first-timer, the December 8 concert will be a very special holiday experience, adds Weimann. “The Vancouver Chamber Choir and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra are the two top groups in the region designed to produce this kind of music. And we’re in the big, beautiful Orpheum Theatre, the city’s preeminent venue. This is the very best of what Vancouver has to offer.”
Early Music Vancouver and the Vancouver Chamber Choir's presentation of Handel’s Messiah will be performed at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Vancouver on December 8 (7:30pm). For more information and to book your tickets, visit the official website or click on the advert above.