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The National Chorale Presents Handel's "Messiah" as a "Sing-In" at Geffen Hall
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The National Chorale Presents Handel's "Messiah" as a "Sing-In" at Geffen Hall

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The National Chorale
Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director
www.nationalchorale.org
1650 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
212.333.5333

Presents:
Messiah
By George Frederic Handel

Jessica Sandidge, Soprano
Eric Brenner, Countertenor
Roderick George, Tenor
Kevin Maynor, Bass
Timothy Brumfield, Organ

Performed at David Geffen Hall
www.lincolncenter.org
212.721.6500

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 20, 2016


The National Chorale, a professional choral company, successfully performs annual NY seasons at David Geffen Hall. The Chorale, founded in 1967, tours nationally and presents concerts in NYC parks each summer. They also work with students in the pubic schools as Artists-in-Residence. Everett McCorvey is Artistic Director of the Chorale. Mr. McCorvey has performed with and organized opera programs around the globe. (Program Notes).

The National Chorale’s “Messiah Sing-In”, with the entire Geffen Hall audience participating, is a mixed bag experience, one the general audience must be prepared for. I was not aware that a full “Messiah” score would be required for total involvement, as well as a general knowledge of the lyrical “repeats” and choral “round” effects (each vocal level singing in delayed fashion over the others). As a former college Glee Club member, I am versed in choral practices, but thought the “Messiah” libretto would unfold on Geffen Hall’s media screen as surtitles. That would have been an excellent way to include everyone in the shared experience. Rather, members of numerous choral groups were spread throughout the audience with full “Messiah scores and librettos”. Prior to the concert, one director ushered dozens of such singers into the Hall, each identified with Santa caps. Their voices were gorgeous and glorious, but most of the audience was left in the dark, nodding rhythmically or humming along (I tried using my tablet for the libretto, but it did not include the “round” style singing or the music). The Santa hat-adorned audience singers had practiced this choral work to perfection and had a wonderful evening. Many confused audience participants left at intermission. I stayed through the “Hallelujah Chorus”.

Having unwrapped my concerns above, I must say that the audience, with and without full “Messiah” scores, sounded magnificent during Everett McCorvey’s warmup. Mr. McCorvey is the very charismatic Artistic Director of The National Chorale. Throughout the evening, as the three-part “Messiah” proceeded, five stunning soloists took the stage to audience acclaim. In some cases, such as Eric Brenner’s countertenor (alto part) Part I recitative, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive”, and aria, “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion”, the solo spotlight was extensive. His poise and extraordinary tonal purity were eloquent. In other cases, such as Jessica Sandidge’s Part I soprano recitatives, “There were shepherds abiding in the fields…”, and aria, “Rejoice greatly”, she shared the spotlight with the audience chorus. Ms. Sandidge has an extensive, impressive tonal reach. Roderick George, tenor, had opened the “Messiah” with “Comfort ye, my people”, a recitative, and “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted”, an aria, with clear, vibrant, resonance. Kevin Maynor, bass, filled the Hall with tremendous strength in his masterful recitative, “Thus saith the Lord”, and aria, “But who may abide the day of his coming?” The Playbill program thankfully did include titles for each “Messiah” Part to nominally follow along.

No fewer than sixteen participating conductors were introduced, along with their detailed resumes, by Mr. McCorvey every few minutes during the “Messiah”, to immediate “whoops” from friends and colleagues in the crowd, after which each conductor prepped the “Messiah” section at hand. To say this was a fragmented concert is a vast understatement. Of the sixteen conductors, Adria Benjamin, Constance Chase, Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, Brett Karlin, Hugh Ferguson Floyd, Gregory Hopkins, Christine Howlett, James John, Thomas Juneau, Adam Luebke, Everett McCorvey (Artistic Director), John Palatucci, Jennifer Pascual, Vincent Rufino, Kathryn E, Schneider, and Michael Spierman, the most memorable, other than Mr. McCorvey, is Mr. Floyd, who led the Part I finale with outsized radiance and personality, and a close second was Mr. Palatucci, who led the “Hallelujahs” with gestural panache. Timothy Brumfield was an excellent and patient organist throughout the over three-hour concert experience. Kudos to George Frederic Handel, whose “Messiah” I will continue to experience, but in its standard, orchestra-choral versions.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net