TSO and TMC’s joint presentation – Handel’s Messiah

December 21, 2008 jeansdream
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Last evening, my music cells were all fired up.  ALL.  WOW – what an excellect performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah by the Toronto Symthony Orchestra (hereafter TSO)  and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (primarily volunteers / amateur singers in Toronto and southwestern Ontario consisting the Mendelssohn Singers and the Elora Festival Singers) (hereafter TMC), plus four solosits!  From 8 pm to about 10:40 pm, my heart was drawn out to this lovely presentation that I’ve then decided I must write something on this event.

I went with my hubby and a girlfriend.  The three of us spent about $150 (total) for  balcony seat tickets (section L9 of the RTH).  We drove and parked right underneath of the concert venue and that’s about $20.  And since we arrived downtown early (concert started at 8 pm, and we entered the parking lot at 5:50 pm), we rested and chatted at Tim’s and that’s about $5.  Originally I thought we could shop a bit downtown, but the stores were almost all closed then.  Otherwise we could have spent $XXX??  😉 

I’ve sung a portioin of Handel’s Messiah previously.  Yesterday was my first Messiah concert as an audience, and it’s also my first encounterance of TSO and TMC.   

The seating of the orchestra was a little different than my imagination.  The two keyboards were right at the centre of the orchestra in front of the conductor instead of the usual “NW” back position.   There’s one bassoon and two claranets behind the viola section.  The two trombones were next to the claranets whom didn’t join the concert until after the intermission.  And I thought I heard flutes (after the intermission as well) and perhaps they were right behind the violins, closest to the stage.  My hubby said he heard drums, and I didn’t notice so if the drums where present, that would be also behind the violins and to the left of the flutes.

The choir sat on raised, staggered rows behind the orchestra.  There were six rows of singers, each with about twenty five persons.  The sopranos were on the left, followed by the mezzo/altos, followed by the tenors and the bases were on the right. 

I was really “busy” during the concert.  My eyes were bouncing back and forth among the conductor, Noel Edison, the TMC singers, and primarily the cello section of the TSO.

Since I just started learning cello, I paid most attention to the cellists amongst the orchestra.  As you can see per my seating, I was right opposite to the cello section and boy I was so happy I picked this section!  There were four cellists, two in the front and two in the back.  The two ladies sat on the right and the two gents on the left (i.e. to the ladies’ right).  I had some “interesting” observations. 

Musicians have a bit of body expressions while playing, some more and some less.  I found that the first cellist (i.e. the lady on the front row) swung with her cello the most.   Quite noticeable.  🙂  And this made an interesting contrast with the gent next to him.  He practically sat like a stone.  His body and his cello hardly moved at all.  The gent behind him, also, moved less compared to the lady beside him.  That’s Observation One. 

Observation Two.  They all held their bow differently.  Imagine zooming onto the fingers portion and only retain the outline of the shape of the four fingers (index to pinky):  they all shaped differently.  All their fingers were vertically dropped onto the bow – that’s the same for them all.  So I heard that bow grip is quite individual but the fingers should be vertical, like my teacher told me.

Third (and I’m going to tell my teacher this) – both ladies who had hair longer than shoulder length, didn’t tie their hair back.  I imagine that my teacher’s response might be: coz they are professional and you are amateur.  🙂

Fourth – at longer rest, one cellist moved her cello to lean on her left thigh, others just let it sit still (in the same upright position).

Fifth –  the height of the cello set up – the bow was just right below the finger board at preparetion time – it’s the same for all of them.  Unfortunately I couldn’t judge how far out they put the endpin down on the floor… meaning, if the body, the cello and the distance of the endpin and the body form an triangle, I couldn’t tell the angle between the base of the triangle and the slope – I wonder if there’s any rule.  See I have difficulties knowing how to set up my cello.

Sixth:  two musicians shared a music stand.  And for the cellists, it’s always the gents turning the music sheets.  Not sure if it’s a lady-gent convention, or left-right convention.

Seventh: seemed like the cellos had more parts to play than the violas, at least for this Messiah arrangement.

So much for my cello notes.

The choir.  With a hundred and fifty persons, they sounded like FOUR – one of each part.  Sopronas were clear and sweet.  Bases were supportive.  Tenors and mezzos/altos were good.  I like tenors a little brighter and mezzos/altos a little warmer where they weren’t.  And it might be due to numbers, I think tenors were a bit soft in terms of volume.  The overall tone was very nice.  Except twice (unfortunately I think) that the ending of a song wasn’t as in one accord, the dictions and end notes were all sung in uniform.  I can’t sing runs (a run is a  rapid passage in music) properly so I admire all those who can, big time.  They totally did and in uniform (wow).   Another amazing thing – if you had your eyes closed, you might not even notice they changed positions – they stood and sat without making a noise!

Among the four outstanding solos, I enjoyed the soprano, Ms. Gillian Keith, the best.  My girlfriend said Ms. Keith reminded her of Audrey Hepburn.   I smiled.  Sweet face and elegent manner; yes they shared resemblance.  Lovely high notes, clear runs, abundent support and great control of volume (i.e. forte but not forceful, piano but not weak) – Ms. Kevin delivered the most exciting soprano solo performance I’ve ever had experienced.  Not that the other soloists were bad or something, but I looked forward to her singing the most during the concert.

Mr. Noel Edison.  Wow – it’s an eye-opener experience for me.   I occasionally do choral conducting in my church.  What I’ve learned and what I’ve seen last night was very different.  His cue was very stylish – he literally pointed at the section for entrance.  I don’t think I can do the same.  His style was very clean and direct and the results were effective and immediate.  It would be interesting to see how he did it at practice.  Perhaps I should go for the TMC audition and see if I get accepted, then I get to know.  He didn’t have big motions.  Compared to other conductors I’ve seen (and I have not seen many…), his body was pretty still.  His hands (and of course, his eyes) did most of the conducting.  He had his times doing big gestures, but it’s not often.  I saw him swinging his hands (twice?) like doing the “infinity” signs with the violins.  🙂   My girlfriend didn’t like big gestures.  She’s very traditional (she had more music training than I do).  She obviously very much liked Mr. Edison.  What’s the purpose of a conductor?  Should a conductor be “expressive” in his/her own body language?  If conducting part of the performance delivering expressions?  I don’t have answers yet.

One thing still fancinates me:  I know for orchestra conducting, the conductor is slightly ahead of the orchestra on beats while for choral conducting, the choir and the conductor will be on the same beat.  I witnessed that last evening, and I still don’t know how it works.  I was imagining when, one day, I could be one of the cellists playing on stage.  I think I would flunk up the tempo.  LOL…

Perhaps the audience enjoyed the famous Hallelujah chorus the most (coz that’s the only time during the concert they were allowed to do something different… (how often can you stand up in the middle of a concert performance without being white-eyed by others…  🙂 ) and they showed that by a big round of applauses at the end of this chorus).  Personally, I liked Part 2’s  “Surely he hath borne our Griefs and carried sorrows” chorus the best.  The tempo was great.   The orchestra was great.  “Surely Surely” came out liked waves wrapped me all over.  At that moment, I told myself, “My God…!”  This was the best sung “Surely” chorus I’ve ever heard and it’s the best sung chorus of the concert last evening in my opinion.

Worth the time and money?  Absolutely.   Too bad you weren’t there.  😉

…shxt… should start to practice cello… or make dinner!!!  argh!!!…

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Entry Filed under: Cello / Music

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