Dallas — Each year at Christmas, Dallas Bach Society performs Handel’s Messiah at the Meyerson Symphony Center. While many avid music listeners may feel that they’ve heard all possible incarnations of this iconic oratorio, Dallas Bach Society’s stellar version this year may have made them reconsider.
In my review of DBS’s sing-along version of Messiah, available here, I noted that Drew Minter’s turn as countertenor soloist was reason enough for listeners to attend Monday night’s performance. However, Minter was ill on Monday; Scot Cameron was his last-minute replacement. While Minter was exemplary Saturday evening, Cameron was a worthy replacement. Although his voice came close to cracking several times in the aria “Thou art gone up on high” in the second part, his knowledge and execution of Baroque performance practice are superb.
The primary issue with Cameron’s authentically Baroque voice is that it didn’t match the other soloists’ well. The problem was particularly evident when he was paired with soprano Ava Pine for the duo aria “O death, where is thy sting.” Pine’s voice is gorgeous. But her use of substantial vibrato and big, lush sound contrasted incongruously with Cameron’s near-vibratoless sound and careful ornamentation.
Similarly, tenor Dann Coakwell has a voice that is a joy to listen to—soaring and lush. Still, it’s not an authentically Baroque voice, nor is the hugely resonant bass of David Grogan. Pine, Coakwell, and Grogan all sing admirably. Although a full production of Messiah such as this one lasts three hours, the time seemed to fly by Monday evening.
However the ensemble needs to decide what it wants to be. The orchestra, and to an extent the chorus, work hard to replicate an authentic Baroque sound, and they sounded terrific Monday evening. Ideally, all of the soloists would approach the music in the same way. When only one of them does so, he seems like the outlier, but far better if he were the norm.