Concert Review: Classically Good. McGill Chamber Orchestra Performs Handel’s Messiah

Photo Kanica Saphan

Article Kanica Saphan

McGill Chamber Orchestra (artistic director Boris Brott) held its last concert for the year at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Montreal (it’s the church where you probably signed a petition for animal rights, saw a stand featuring Obama’s picture with Hitler’s ‘stache and heard a man say Jesus was coming). Sidewalk entertainers aside, the church is a sumptuous neo-Gothic building that would surprise anyone who walks daily past this hidden and taken-for-granted architectural gem. The orchestra performed its annual show of Handel’s Messiah, with Patrick Wedd directing the Christ Church Cathedral Choir.

Upon entering the church and taking a seat, any youngster might have raised an eyebrow after mentally assessing the crowd’s average age – salt and pepper heads predominated – but the concert was nonetheless remarkable. What was more appealing for a younger spectator was the student-friendly price (35$) compared to those of bigger avenues. Sweet priced tickets can be an incentive for people who aren’t exactly classical music connoisseurs, such as me.

The choir stood in the middle of the hall while soloists were isolated on the left, so they stood out. Every man wore a suit and tie and the female soloist had a sparkly dress that caught the light. The soloists sang with fierce facial expressions — it seemed as if they were telling or yelling a story, giving the whole performance a theatrical atmosphere. Some people in the audience closed their eyes and enjoyed the music while it gave a soundtrack to their daydreams, others contemplated the group on stage, some even looked up and stared at the ceiling as the church’s architecture found a way to be inspiring.

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The performance of Handel’s Messiah will leave you pondering how men’s and women’s voices can blend in so well together, on how churches don’t need a surround sound system and how vocal cords are an instrument by themselves. You’ll also leave with some unexplained issues: why are cars constantly honking on University and how can it be that some husky men don’t have a voice to match.

A last word on etiquette when it comes to attending a concert : alleviate your bladder before the show starts, don’t text, don’t fanatically go through the pamphlet with an intense LED light, don’t rummage loudly in your purse, and know when to clap.

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