Damn, I’m late blogging this. I blame the cold which kept me away from last week’s rehearsal.
We have a concert this Sunday, December 4th, at the Plymouth Guildhall. The work is Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus.
It is basically a feast of Handel’s music. The story (insofar as there is one) is of the biblical warlord Judas Maccabeus and his victories in battle, and of his people going from despair to triumph. Although it’s about the glory of war and terror, it’s not such extreme and gratuitous violence as many biblical works including Handel’s. Lots of lovely music, including tunes that we all know without – until we encounter them in context – knowing where they’re from. For example, an arrangement of See the Conquering Hero Comes is a Last Night of the Proms staple.
As a singer, this is lots of fun. Most of the choruses are short, but there are a lot of them, and each has its own distinct character. And it plays with the voices in ways rarely seen in a serious score, though not unlike what one might be tempted to improvise around a score in a hypothetical rehearsal that needs livening up. I shall certainly enjoy it.
As a listener, my usual reaction to Handel is that I like him in small doses, but a whole concert of it can tend to drag. How much are we doing to maintain the level of excitement for our audience? That’s hard to say from within, but I would note that we’re taking a lot of the music at a cracking pace, which keeps up excitement in numbers that might otherwise risk feeling formulaic. Even the slower numbers, like the despairing (but lovely) opening chorus, are going too fast to wallow in it. But not according to the modern fashion with baroque, of making it almost mechanistic. And we are a large choir, something which Handel himself loved, but which is sometimes sneered at by today’s baroque aficionados.
For readers in the area, I can recommend it, if you can get tickets.