Review: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Handel’s “Messiah” with special guests the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (Dec 20, 2019)


Photo credit:  Jag Gundu

Over the holidays I took some time with friends to enjoy the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah”.  It proved to be a restorative evening out with some delicious moments to reflect upon as the year drew to a close.

A quick snapshot, “Messiah” is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the Coverdale Psalter, the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

We felt ourselves getting lost in “The Trumpet Shall Sound”, “Hallelujah!” and “Behold the Lamb of God” early on in the performance. Think epic, reflective and a perfect anecdote as we wrapped up the decade.

The talent on the evening included the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and four dazzling Canadian soloists. Alexander Shelley, Music Director, of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducts Handel’s Messiah with large doses of kindness and softness. Jane Archibald (soprano), Emily D’Angelo (mezzo-soprano), Isaiah Bell (tenor) and Russell Braun (baritone) blew the house down with emotion and verve. These talented individuals drew the audience together with rich hymns and high brow drama.  Close to the end of the performance, with programs in hand, the audience joined the soloists on songs that have truly lasted the test of time.

Jovial, thoughtful and purposeful was the tone felt in Roy Thomson Hall on the night. There were many times during the performance that I felt my mind thinking about my year and what brought me joy, what I have been forced to let go off and what has truly changed me. It’s funny how music can cement transformations and leave space for new growth.

Thank you to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Happy New Year! Looking forward to more performances in the year ahead.

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