This weekend, Early Music Vancouver (EMV) presented Handel’s Messiah for the first time in their repertoire. EMV welcomes music lovers to four performances over the weekend, at the White Rock Baptist Church, Vancouver Playhouse and Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver. Virtually sold out for the whole run, there was definitely an appetite for the classic work.
Since Handel wrote Messiah in 1742, the oratorio has been performed countless times due to its enduring popularity and familiarity of the famed Hallelujah Chorus. Over the years the productions of Messiah have swelled to epic proportions, with some performances reaching orchestras and choruses of 100+, as the producers tried to outdo other versions. EMV had a trimmed down vision for their first foray into the Baroque work. Music director and harpsichordist Alexander Weimann lead the 20 piece Pacific Baroque Orchestra, playing period instruments. The 30 member Vancouver Cantata Singers, nimbly brought the chorus to life . Bringing extensive experience in Baroque music, four internationally acclaimed vocalists joined the EMV ensemble; Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo-soprano), Charles Daniels (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone).
Watching our first full performance of Handel’s Messiah, I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than knowing it was a long work. I was happy to find that while it was long at nearly 3 hours, EMV’s Handel’s Messiah was a fast paced (impressively so, at times), easy to grasp classical work. The Chorus, and soloists filled the room with their voices and the orchestra was tightly rehearsed to sound as one. Of course, a highlight was the Hallelujah Chorus, bringing the audience to their feet for the uplifting moment.
With the popularity of these performances, I won’t be surprised to see Handel’s Messiah on next year’s Early Music Vancouver calendar. In the meantime, get another Seasonal music experience when EMV presents Festive Cantatas – Vivaldi – Gloria & Magnificat on December 23rd at The Chan Centre for Performing Arts.