Two Island musical ensembles present
June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:46 PM
"The voices of Sing!Chronicity soar in chorus during rehearsal for next weekend's performance of George Friedrich Handel's Messiah. The famous sacred oratorio will be presented in a small ensemble production in concert with the Saratoga Chamber Players.Joan Soltys/staff photosThe MessiahPerformed by Sing!Chronicity Vocal Ensemble in concert with the Saratoga Chamber Players, directed by Dr. Robert ScandrettFriday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16, 7:30 p.m. The Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, LangleyTickets, $12 all seats; at 221-8268A portion of the proceeds will be dedicated to Friends of Friends Medical Support FundSing!Chronicity will also present excerpts with Kathryn Fox at the piano on Dec. 10, 3 p.m. in A Coupeville Christmas, at Coupeville High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets, $12 at the door. One of the world's most beloved pieces of sacred music, George Friedrich Handel's classic Christmas oratorio, The Messiah, is most often sung by massed choral voices, with the famous Hallelujah Chorus resounding in imposing cathedrals and large concert halls.In fact, says Bill Humphries, one of the directors of Sing!Chronicity, the 18th century work was originally performed in more intimate settings, and by smaller ensembles of singers and instruments. The noted group of gifted Island singers will pair with South Whidbey's Saratoga Chamber Players to present Handel's Messiah next weekend at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, in a performance that reflects that Baroque music tradition. The performance will include Part 1: The Christmas Messiah, plus the Hallelujah chorus from Part 2. And in keeping with another Handel custom, the presentation at WICA will support the efforts of a local charity. Throughout his life, Handel staged and conducted Messiah as a benefit for people in need, especially medical and children's charities. In the same spirit, a portion of the proceeds from the 2000 Messiah on Whidbey will be donated to Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund, which helps South Whidbey people with unexpected or uncovered medical expenses.All of these aspects combine to make this a performance with a very personal touch and feel, Humphries said. It goes back to the whole essence of what the original work was about.The music is more fully realized in this more authentic ensemble size and rendition, Humphries added.It becomes transparent, in a musical sense. The audience can hear every part so well, he said. There is also a mystical element about music when it's performed close to the composer's original intent. Humphries noted that typically, Messiah productions have invited a corps of soloists, sometimes professionals, to augment the choral voices. The solos in the WICA Messiah will almost all be performed by core members of Sing!Chronicity: Vern Olsen sings the tenor solo on Friday, Humphries on Saturday; Karl Olsen is bass soloist; the alto solo is sung by Suzi Stonebridge; and soprano soloists are Claudia Walker and Paula Ludtke.This is in synch with the philosophy of the group, to share the musical responsibilities within the ensemble, Humphries said. We believe there is an integrity and continuity gained for the whole work in this way.The Messiah orchestra, the Saratoga Chamber Players with Michael Nutt, concertmaster, is comprised of some of the finest instrumentalists on Whidbey Island, Humphries added. They enhance the full ensemble experience. The orchestra is essentially as important as the singers.The Saratoga Chamber Players will open the program with Handel's Concerto Grosso No. 8 Solo for Oboe, Strings and Continuo, featuring Susan Worden on oboe; and Petronio Franceschini's Sonata in D for Two Trumpets with guest soloists Lauren Anderson and Bob Gale.Guest conductor Dr. Robert Scandrett is an eminent figure in the chamber music and choral music arenas. He was director of choral activities for the Seattle Symphony, preparing the chorus for conductors Rainer Miedel and Gerard Schwartz, and he has conducted choirs around the world.Scandrett said he's been doing The Messiah since the age of 12, about 50 years. At first I looked with reluctance at the offer from Sing!Chronicity, until I realized what it would be. For one thing, he said, he wouldn't have to teach notes to accomplished singers and instrumentalists.Instead I can experiment with textures and tempos, which you can do with a smaller group. It's been a wonderful surprise. It has been great fun. I'm having a lark doing it, and it's coming along just the way we wanted it to.Humphries said the performers are experiencing an excitement even in rehearsal that has never before happened with large, often ungainly choruses and orchestras, where the essential elements of sensitivity to the characteristic Baroque style and idiosyncrasies are not accessible.We are most anxious for the community to experience the utter magic of this rendition of 'The Messiah,' he said. "