Monday, December 04, 2006


Four years ago, a group of local singers formed a professional choir to accompany the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra's performances of Handel's Messiah as a baroque chamber piece rather than the 19th century re-tooled 300 voice/symphonic version.

Those 16 singers were amazingly good, many the product of graduate training at IU and other conservatories, and they enjoyed singing together so much that they formed the Meridian Vocal Consort. Twice a year they have put together wonderful concert performances.

This past weekend, they rejoined the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra for two nights of Messiah at Trinity. It was again an amazing thing to witness. Local artists Steven Stolens and Steven Rickards sang the tenor and counter-tenor songs. I don't have the program with me so I don't remember the names of the bass and soprano -- he is from Virginia and the soprano is from Illinois. But they were all amazing, too.

This time there were only 15 voices in the choir, but their uniform sound was amazing strong and clear and yet so perfectly matched to provide meaningful shaping to Handel's passages, clear enunciation, and tremendous and agile singing in the numerous trills and passages that move so quickly.

It is nearly three hours of singing and instrumental accompaniment.

When Handel wrote the piece, the Bishop of London banned its presentation in London parishes and in St. Paul's Cathedral. He thought it smacked too much of the theater, and he did not want his churches tainted by such an entertainment. Handel ended up presenting the Messiah in Dublin as a benefit for a charity hospital.

I left into the cold night, my head alive with his musical meditations based on passages from the King James Version of the Bible.

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