.by Anura Guruge
1. Dartmouth Handel Society: St. Matthew Passion … — Apr. 9, 2013.
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The program, but there were two changes: instead of Brenna Wells we had Laura Heimes and Sumner Thompson, who was very impressive, stood in for James Harrington.
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 singing “Matthew Passion” with maestro John Nelson — from his Website.
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.
Click to access the audio page. This is right at the bottom.
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.