One of the first of its kind in the nation, the Sing-In was started in 1968 by Professor Donald Loach, who has been conducting it ever since.
My husband LDB, who has a better voice than I and has sung Handel’s masterwork in the past, was the instigator of this activity. We headed to Charlottesville with enough time to stop at the Horse and Hound Gastropub on West Main Street. It’s warm and charming inside, and we enjoyed a pre-game beverage before our dinner.
This settled my jitters about the upcoming event. I had the I don’t know my music pit in my stomach, all too familiar to me from when I was learning the works my choir sang on our trip to Italy this summer. After we entered Old Cabell Hall at the south end of the historic Lawn, I found a seat in the alto section and quickly made friends with the gals on my right and left, telling them, like a first-time flyer, that I was new to the Messiah.
We started the Sing-In warming up to And the Glory of the Lord, tied for my top two choruses of the entire 3-part work. It’s on my Merry Mix of Christmas Tunes, but you can hear it again by clicking the link below.
Messiah, a Primer
If you are unfamiliar with the Messiah, here is a brief primer. Written by George Frederic Handel in 1741, it is an oratorio (similar to an opera only without the costumes, props or character interaction) in English, whose text was written by Charles Jennins. It was first performed on April 13, 1742, exactly one year before the birth of Thomas Jefferson, a fact that Professor Loach repeated for emphasis.
The oratorio has three parts: Birth of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and redemption. Most of the text is pulled directly from the Bible’s New Testament, with a few passages from the Old Testament, notably Isaiah. If you hear an abbreviated selection of Messiah, usually it is Part 1 and ends with the Hallelujah chorus. It’s a misleading ending because the Hallelujah chorus is the last piece in Part 2, not Part 1.
Whenever the Hallelujah chorus is performed, it is proper to stand. The curious custom arose out of the belief that King George II attended the London premier of Messiah in 1743. Legend has it that the king stood during the chorus, and when the king stands, so must his surrounding company. Audiences to this day still abide by this custom.
Do You Want to Sing-In?
At the UVA Sing-In, vocalists and instrumentalists alike are welcome to participate. Despite the fact I was a rookie at this event, Professor Loach was enormously entertaining and instructive to musicians and vocalists. I feared we’d be singing the entire text, but instead we sang the more popular choruses from each of the three parts. The Sing-In started at 8 p.m. and ended at 10:15-10:30. The participants included students, recent graduates, and adults of all ages and stripes. I look forward to attending again.
If you want to join in the singing and have not done it before, I recommend two resources. First, the Messiah score is essential.
Second, when you sit down to practice, use this helpful website: Saved Sounds. The site lists .mp3 files for each of the soprano/tenor/alto/bass parts of all of the Messiah‘s choruses. For example, I’m an alto. When I select And the Glory of the Lord to play (using headphones), I will hear my alto part in the left ear, and all other parts and accompaniment in my right. That’s essential to learning your part, where to enter, and singing with the other parts.
If you’re not interested in singing but want to attend, spectators are also welcome.
We departed sore of voice but in high spirits. Upon exiting the hall, we were greeted by
December 17, 2013
p.s. My other favorite chorus is Worthy is the Lamb. Click below to listen. Keep a tissue handy!