Handel Choir pays 56th annual tribute to 'Messiah'


HANDEL'S "MESSIAH" is so melodic, familiar and beloved, some listeners can't abide even fine choruses having it all to themselves. So Saturday night at the Second Presbyterian Church on St. Paul Street, several listeners out of more than 650 in the audience softly sang or hummed parts as the Handel Choir and orchestra superbly performed the oratorio.

It was just one more tribute to the music of Handel, who wrote the masterpiece in 24 days. But the private sing-along also honored director T. Herbert Dimmock, the 75-member chorus, four soloists and 20 instrumentalists who teamed up for the choir's impressive 56th consecutive annual "Messiah."

The amateur choir -- professional in quality -- showed its mettle Saturday night after the flu kept 10 members away. One ailing alto walked off soon after the start. Yet the choir made music like a precision Baroque drill team having fun.

The choir's last of four "Messiah" concerts is at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the larger Kraushaar Auditorium at Goucher College. Patrick Romano, a different tenor, will sing, and Thomas Hetrick will switch from organ to harpsichord. Several hundred seats are still available. For information call 366-6544.

It was a joy to hear Dimmock's troupe sing with such good sound and diction -- phrases such as "Wonderful, Counsellor" in "For Unto Us," one of many pleasing arias, choral parts and symphonic passages.

The soloists were a good fit. Soprano Beverly Myers followed a strong "Hallelujah Chorus" with moving phrasing and tone in "I know that my Redeemer liveth," qualities she showed earlier in "Rejoice greatly" and other arias. Soon after, Mark Henriksen gracefully played the stirring trumpet solo as bass Richard Johnson sang with gusto, "The trumpet shall sound."

Pastorale passages were effective. Alto Leneida Crawford carefully phrased the lovely aria "But who may abide" and later "He shall feed his flock." Tenor Howard Carr handled a variety of emotions from the bright opening "Every valley shall be exalted" to the mournful "Behold and see."

The choir seemed particularly to enjoy doing the fugues, where different sections entered separately and practiced Dimmock's "contrapuntal courtesy" of backing off and letting others have the lead. In a splendid conclusion, "Blessing and honor," basses and tenors led off, followed by sopranos and altos before the "Amens." Throughout, the orchestra performed stylishly.

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