Dartmouth Hopkins Center: Handel Society, “St. Matthew Passion”, May 19, 2013 — Goose Bump Inducing Virtuosic Gala.
.by Anura Guruge
1. Dartmouth Handel Society: St. Matthew Passion … — Apr. 9, 2013.
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The Dartmouth Handel Society claimed, without ever sounding hyperbolic, that this would be an ‘once in 30 years gala bash‘. It sure was. I would even go as far as saying that it flirted with ‘pretty close to once in a lifetime‘.
It was indubitably a gala. You felt privileged to be there to savor this treat: 90 adult singers in two separate choruses, 52 strong children’s chorus, 6 amazing soloists, two orchestras with a total of 30 musicians and a very talented and committed conductor. Actually when the children’s chorus joined in, standing angelically in the aisles, each holding a yellowish glowing candle inside a white jar, during the start and end of Part I, we had two conductors in tandem. I had never seen that. That was pretty special.
The music was unbelievable. The production, minutely choreographed with instrument soloist coming to the front to accompany the vocal soloists, the two choruses alternating antiphonally as well as alternating between sitting and standing, the children in the aisles with the candles, the words of the program (albeit in English as opposed to the German which was being sung) ‘supertititled’ on a large screen, was masterful.
I am convinced that as far as New Hampshire is convinced only Dartmouth could have delivered a production of this caliber (with nary a hitch). I would think Boston would have difficulty trying to match this soaring but at the same time ethereal tour de force. It was so divine that sometimes you felt as if you had to pinch yourself to make sure that this was not a magical dream.
Though I am by no means an expert, I am also not a total stranger to good chorale music. This just happened to be my second chorale concert in 7 days. Plus, for the last nine months, bar a few weeks here and there, I have got to listen to a full choir for at least 90 minutes a week. But this was a full-body, holistic experience that made you feel cleansed and rejuvenated. And the acoustics of the Spaulding Auditorium! Wow. I have been to quite a few concerts there. This was our second at the Spaulding in 2013 and the third since December 2012. But, at this performance, given the exquisiteness of the sounds involved you really got to appreciate that the acoustics of the auditorium have to be pretty close to perfect, if not perfect.
Yes, I make no excuses that I am a great fan of all things Dartmouth (Hanover) related. But, I have yet to ever be disappointed even slightly — and I have been going to events at Dartmouth since about 1998. I have thoroughly enjoyed some great performances at the ‘Hop’ but this has to rank as the most memorable.
Douglas Williams who sang bass-baritone was a revelation. I never realized that somebody singing bass-baritone could sound that good! It was simple as that. His voice is transfixing. I am sold. Here listen to him, from this ‘Matthew Passion’ audio clip from his Website, though, to me, he sounded even better today. Maybe because we had 3rd row seats, right in the middle. I was directly behind the conductor.
To be fair all the soloists were exceptional. Rare talents. An inspiration to all.
The real testament to how good this 3 hour concert really was is that Teischan (7) never really complained once. That is beyond rare. She even gets bored at Disney on Ice. But, she likes music and parts of this concert had her mesmerized. She was seated next to me so I could tell. Even she knew that she was privy to something very special. [It started at 2pm and finished around 5:30, following prolonged standing ovation — with about a 20 minute intermission.]
It is well past midnight as I write this and I am still glowing.
Thank YOU, the ‘Handel Society of Dartmouth College’. You outdid yourself.
Thank YOU the Hopkins Center for this performance. It was such a joy.
3 CD set replete with ‘booklet’ with all of the music to be available for $25. Click here for details.
Dartmouth Hopkins Center: Handel Society, 3 Choruses, 2 Orchestra, 6 Soloists, Once In ’30 Years’ Gala Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”, May 18 – 19, 2013.
..by Anura Guruge
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Two-and-a-half-hours, 150 choralists (100 from the famed Handel Society, divided into two choruses so that they can sing ‘antiphonally‘ [i.e., call-and-response as ] plus 50 kids, 8 to 14 years), two orchestras and soloists: Derek Chester (singing the Evangelist), Brenna Wells, Reginald Mobley, Dann Coakwell & Douglas Williams.
There will be two performances at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH: Saturday, May 18, at 7 pm & Sunday, May 19, at 2 pm. Tickets are available, ranging from $20 to $29 for adults (with student and other discounts), either online or by calling 603-646-2422.
Per the Handel Society of Dartmouth College this is a ‘once about every 30 years’ — opportunity, which in the context of classical music must equate to ‘once in a lifetime‘ for most – unless of course you were hooked on classics since you were a teen.
According to Kristen Colwell, a Dartmouth music major who sings with the Handel Society: “Some people consider it the greatest piece in Western classical music”. Well that is indeed quite a claim. The piece was composed in 1720s, and given that it describes Jesus’ last three days as described in the Gospel of Matthew, it is typically performed during Holy Week.
Yes, we are going. I got tickets today, as soon as I heard about it.
Founded in 1807, the Handel Society of Dartmouth College is proud to be America’s oldest town-gown choral society.