Balthasar Denner\'s portrait of Handel

Review: Messiah | Dallas Bach Society | Church of the Incarnation

All In

Our critic has a ball at Dallas Bach Society's sing-along Messiah; you can hear the real deal Monday at the Meyerson.

published Sunday, December 21, 2014

Photo: WikiMedia Commons
Balthasar Denner's portrait of Handel

Dallas Dallas Bach Society’s sing-along version of Handel’s Messiah is an annual Christmas delight—for those who love to sing. Dallas Bach Society performs Messiah at the Meyerson each Christmas, and that performance will be on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. The sing-along version uses the same orchestra and soloists from the Meyerson performance, sans chorus. The audience members provide chorus duty for the sing-along.

This is my second year attending and writing about the DBS sing-along, and both years I have been impressed with the preparedness of many of the singers. However, non-singers, at least those who can read music, shouldn’t have much difficulty fitting in. While I have performed Messiah as a string player, until last year I had never attempted to sing it, and I have no vocal training. Still, I was lucky enough both years to sit near fellow altos who clearly had experience singing their parts, and I had little problem participating. Scores are available for purchase for $15, too, so all a would-be sing-alonger needs to bring to the performance is a willingness to sing in public.

The performance was well organized, with pews set aside for those who wished to sing with their sections, and others for those who preferred to sit with their companions or who might not be singing. The whole event lasted about two hours—many recitatives and arias were omitted, as were some of the less familiar choruses. Audience members got to sing all the favorites and listen to each vocal soloist perform an aria, and received a bonus music history lesson from Music Director James Richman, who provides cogent and relatively concise remarks before most choruses.

The authentic Baroque tuning means that singers were singing half a step lower than they usually do, a boon for sopranos and tenors in the chorus. The orchestra, while exemplars of authentic Baroque performance practice, were not as precise Saturday evening as they often are. But then, the audience-participation chorus wasn’t nearly as precise as the Dallas Bach Society chorus to which they are accustomed.

Soloists this year are Ava Pine, soprano; Drew Minter, countertenor; Dann Coakwell, tenor; and David Grogan, bass. Although Ava Pine is the best known of the group, due in part to her work with Fort Worth Opera, Minter is particularly worth hearing in Monday night’s performance. He will be singing the parts usually assigned to a female alto, a common practice in the Baroque period. In fact, his singing is reason enough to go, no matter how many performances of Messiah you’ve heard in the past. Minter is a particularly precise and thoughtful interpreter of Baroque repertoire.

So: if you love to sing, by all means go to the Dallas Bach Society’s version of the Messiah sing-along next year, but don’t forget you still have the opportunity to hear the whole shebang on Monday—even though you probably shouldn’t attempt to sing along.

» The Dallas Bach Society performs Handel's Messiah at the Meyerson Symphony Center at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22. For tickets, go hereThanks For Reading

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Our critic has a ball at Dallas Bach Society's sing-along Messiah; you can hear the real deal Monday at the Meyerson.
by J. Robin Coffelt

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