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Pauline Lerner


December 6, 2005 at 7:41 AM

Sunday I played in our annual Messiah concert and sing-along, and it was great. Every year since the first two, I get bored with practicing for it. The second violin part is very easy and very boring. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da followed by dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum. I’ve been told that the singing parts are not that easy. I always remind myself that it will be fun to play with the singers, and it certainly was.

The music is full of high drama. In Handel’s day, centuries before high tech films and shows and audio, the drama was encoded into the score. The music bounces around from dark to exultant and from gentle to thunderous. There are dialogues among the instrumentalists, chorus, and soloists. There is no action by the performers, but the emotions conveyed are always active and rapidly changing.

The dress rehearsal was fun. We rehearsed on the stage where we would play the concert, and the acoustics are much, much better there than in the hall where we have most of our rehearsals. It makes a big difference when we can hear ourselves and each other play, and I always play better and enjoy myself more that way. On the day of the concert, one of the violinists in the first chair of the second violin section was unable to attend, and I volunteered to sit in her place. This was a temporary promotion for me, and my friends in the rear of the second violin section were impressed. I had even more fun playing there. I could see the conductor (not just the silhouette of his hands), some of the other orchestra members, the soloists, and even part of the audience. One of our regular soloists (bass) could not play in the concert because he had a paying gig that day. One of our horn players took his place and sang admirably. (It’s good to know that one of your friends has multiple talents.) In one of the first parts we played, I heard singing from people in the audience in front of me in addition to the chorus behind me. I saw our conductor turn part way towards the audience and conduct them for a few seconds before turning to face us again. It’s always a thrill when that happens. There were some strong male singers in the audience, and I heard them loud and clear. Everything swelled to the grand climax in the Hallelujah chorus. What a great feeling! After all the self restraint necessary to keep musical balance, we finally let loose – instrumentalists, chorus, and audience. During the very last measure, I glanced quickly at my bow to see why I had suddenly stopped making a sound with my violin. Of course, my violin was making sound, but so were a lot of other instruments and voices.

A bonus for me was having a few of my students and some of their family members in the audience. I spoke with them at the reception which followed the concert, while I indulged in the brownies I had made and many other confections. It was all over way too soon! I always have a post concert letdown and yearn for rehearsals to begin again in late January. One consolation is that some of that happy music, in its low tech way, keeps playing inside my head.

Every valley, every valley shall be exalted

And the glory of, glory of the Lord shall be revealed

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion

Glory to God on the highest

Rejoice greatly daughters of Zion

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given

Hallelujah hallelujah!

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