Perfect timing for Handel’s Messiah

Fraser Valley Philharmonic Society presents Handel’s Messiah: Selected Easter Choruses on Good Friday, March 29 at Chilliwack United.

It’s a chance to enjoy some of the lesser known sections of Handel’s master work, Messiah.

Fraser Valley Philharmonic Society presents Handel’s Messiah: Selected Easter Choruses, Solos, and Sinfonia by the Philomusica Orchestra and Chorus on Good Friday, March 29 at Chilliwack United.

The production of Messiah next Friday under the baton of Maestro Leonard Camplin will include soloists Paula Quick, Caroline Harder, John Arsenault and Dale Throness.

A little-known musical fact is that Handel’s Messiah actually had more to do with being a thought provoking work for Easter and Lent historically than it did Christmas, said Paula Quick, spokesperson and one of the soloists.

The English language oratorio features operatic elements, but it is always based on sacred texts from the bible. And Messiah is typically performed in a concert setting, never theatrical or staged. The sinfonia are the strictly instrumental pieces, developed later.

Messiah was first performed in Dublin, Ireland in 1742.

“The Fraser Valley Philharmonic had committed to doing Messiah every year when we were first chartered,” she said.

Some of the sister organizations in the community opted to perform the work for Chilliwack audiences.

“So we had to step away from the idea in the last two years,” said Quick.

The Maestro was keen on coming back to it, she said and not just the first movement, but also some of the lesser-known parts of the second and third movements.

“Messiah is a treasured piece. So I suggested it and he agreed to do it for Easter. It had not always been a Christmas work, and instead was more associated with Easter.”

It’s entirely appropriate for the holy week since it fosters an atmosphere of contemplation or meditation, she said.

Between the four local soloists, they have probably performed the solos more than 200 times, said Quick. The polyphonic aspect of the work offers an excellent standard of composition and craft, from a musical point of view, she added.

“It’s not just the beauty of the music, but also the skill of the musicianship,” she said.

Philharmonic society member Zoe Dennison said the sheer beauty of the work transcends any particular tradition.

“It feels good to sing the piece,” she said, adding that last year the chorus had an opportunity to sing with the orchestra parts of Messiah.

“The melding between the strings and voice was incredible. It just soars and I think it would move anyone.”

Handel’s Messiah: Selected Easter Choruses, Solos, and Sinfonia on Good Friday, March 29 at Chilliwack United on Spadina Avenue, at 7 p.m., tickets $25/20 at the Cultural Centre, 604-391-SHOW.

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