Above was my view from the first row, stage left, where several basses are stationed for Elijah. It’s a a big treat to be near the low brass, who often are doubling our parts. We had a full house in Milersville for the first performance of three – and it was a grand affair! It’s been fascinating to see how the full work flows – I’ve never sat down and listened to it the entire way through. It’s a long piece – with intermission, it clocks in at 2:45, though it didn’t at all feel like that to me (perhaps Greg Funfgeld and Dashon Burton might feel differently). In any case, things went very, very well for our first go, and they can only settle overnight and mature for our second performance for a sold-out audience in Bethlehem.
There were several highlights this afternoon, including Dashon’s sublime “It is enough,” though it’s hard to single out just one aria or contribution – as he alluded in his interview in the Morning Call, the baritone singing the role of Elijah has to be spot-on through the entire performance, keeping every note animated. Mission accomplished, Dashon! Likewise, the other soloists sang marvelously. Marietta Simpson’s “O rest in the Lord,” was suffused with peace and compassion, and Rosa Lamoreaux had several lovely contributions, as did Mark Boyle.
I think my favorite, however, was the dialogue that prefaces the final chorus of the first half. The choir begins a plaintive plea for rain, and Elijah admonishes a child to “look toward the sea, hath my prayer been heard by the Lord?” The soprano soloist, Rosa, replies that the sky is as “brass above me.” Elijah counsels the faithful to turn from their sin, and prays again. The choir pleads again for forgiveness and asks for help again. Elijah again asks the child to look toward the sea, to no avail. Over arpeggiating triplets from the lower strings, Elijah pleads ever more urgently for the intervention of the Lord. Then, over quietly building accompaniment, Rosa takes note of the clouds growing on the horizon. The choir begins a growing prayer of thanksgiving, instruments and choir embarking on a mighty crescendo. Elijah chimes in with his own prayer of thanksgiving, and then choir and orchestra launch into the final chorus of the first half, which combines joyous thanksgiving with an amazing sound-picture of the deluge that follows. There are rushing sixteenth notes in the orchestra, and ecstatic praise from the choir, and the whole thing churns along as though the heavens themselves have opened. This dialogue gelled in an amazing way this afternoon, with wonderful contributions from soloists, orchestra, and choir – with our fearless leader marvelously at the helm. Greg paced all of the disparate components wonderfully, with great panache and drama. I can’t wait to get to sing it again, tomorrow.
I just received an e-mail that we’ve had to cancel the preconcert lecture, though if you’d like to hear Greg speak about the piece, you can listen to his conversation with Deborah Lamberton of WETA here. If you’d like some more background about the piece, there are also two podcasts featuring yours truly. An hour-long conversation with Wally Vinovskis of WDIY is here; and a conversation with a wonderful introduction by Erika Funke of WVIA can be heard here. Check back tomorrow evening for an update following tomorrow’s performance. The Choir will then rehearse on Monday night (we’ve got lots on tap for the Festival in May), and then we journey to Bethesda for our Strathmore performance on Wednesday. I’ll be posting a bit about Tuesday’s Bach at Noon performance (featuring Dashon in Cantata No. 56, a cantata for solo baritone, perfect as Lent nears its end) soon, too.