Conducted by: Giancarlo Guerrero and Chorus Director, Tucker Biddlecombe
Nashville Symphony & Chorus, Mary Wilson (soprano), Elizabeth Batton (mezzo soprano), Andrew Williams (bass), and Garrett Sorenson
Schermerhorn Symphony Center – Nashville, Tennessee
December 19, 2019
No. This is not a review mistakenly running on Boomerocity.
Yes. I attended a symphony last night and, yes, it bears important relevance to Boomerocity readers.
First, about the performance. This presentation of Handel’s Messiah is the first formal symphony I’ve attended since high school (more about that in a moment). Last night’s performance has challenged me to make sure that it is nowhere near my last.
If you’re a classical music enthusiast, I apologize upfront for not stating things in a manner that classical purist does. My review will be in the parlance that I typically use (whatever title one chooses to stick on it is up to you).
For me, Handel’s Messiah is about the true meaning of Christmas: the proclamation, birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. I won’t go into the history of the oratorio as it is magnificently presented here (beginning on page 34).
Giancarlo Guerrero masterfully and energetically delivered a stunning performance. Soloists Mary Wilson, Elizabeth Batton, Andrew Williams, and Garrett Sorenson performed with breathtaking feeling from their hearts. First violinist, Jun Iwasaki, was fun to watch. His intensity and talent make me want to return to watch the symphony’s other presentations.
Which brings me to why I am raving about a symphony in an e-zine that is predominantly about rock, blues, country, and R&B.
Handel’s Messiah holds a very special place in my heart. As a Junior and Senior at Moon Valley High School (Phoenix, Arizona) in the seventies, I was in the school’s Concert Choir that was led by Mrs. Charlotte Caldwell. Why she accepted me into the choir I’ll never know. I had an okay voice but certainly not performance quality. Whatever her reason, I’m so glad that she did.
She introduced the choir members to some of the early and modern classics such as some of Wagner’s chorales, Godspell (she probably couldn’t do that today), 1776 (the Bi-Centennial hit at that time) and others that slip my aging mind.
What is burned indelibly in my mind, though, is learning and performing Handel’s Messiah with the school’s orchestra that was led by Charles Mattern. As we learned segments from Messiah, Mrs. Caldwell would give us the background – both Handel’s and the Scripture underlying the specific segment we were learning. She also taught us proper breathing techniques in order to properly deliver the amazing vocal parts from the oratorio.
We had amazing soloists that could deliver the demanding solos that Handel created. One person in particular was my good friend, Steve Pearch. He was touched by God with incredible musical talent – vocally as well as on guitar and piano. And, boy, could he improvise!
In one of our long rehearsals prior to the Christmas performance of Messiah, we were repeatedly practicing the Hallelujah Chorus. We had it done and we had it down perfectly but Mrs. C was drilling it into us.
On the final run through it, we were, again, nailing it. As we got to the powerful, magnificent ending with that one word, Steve belted out a beautiful, bluesy vocal flourish that I have never forgotten. As much as I loved it, Mrs. C didn’t seem to appreciate it. If my memory serves me correctly, she gave him a look not at all unlike the look Nancy Pelosi gave the cheering Democrat members of the house after they passed the articles of impeachment.
That all said, the end result was not only a phenomenal performance by our choir and orchestra (if I do say so myself), it burned into me and my classmates a lifelong memory and blissful appreciation for great, timeless music.
Great times. Great memories. A great musical memories and education.
I’ll close by making two points:
First, to my fellow Nashvillians and to anyone reading this and/or plans to be in town this weekend, please attend the remaining performances of Handel’s Messiah by the Nashville Symphony & Chorus tonight and/or tomorrow night. If you can’t make it, please consider the other work they’ll be presenting in the coming year. You can find out all about them here.
Second, I want to stress that music education needs to put back in schools wherever it’s now missing. It teaches brilliant lessons from the history of humankind. It is proven to help develop memorization, creativity, and other mental skills. It improves reading and perception. It instills self-confidence and a sense and desire towards personal excellence. These and other proven results are important reasons why we need to support music programs in our public and private schools. The child, their parents, society, and the world will be blessed and better for it.