Do you remember the first time you heard “The Hallelujah Chorus?” With its soaring oratorio, familiar and well-loved, the chorus featured in George Frideric Handel‘s Messiah is a cornerstone of Western classical music. The American River College Orchestra and the Folsom Lake Choir will present selections from Handel’s Messiah, as well as selections from Mozart’s Requiem Mass on November 29th and December 5th.
Dr. Steven Thompson, director of orchestras at ARC, immediately jumped at the chance to perform, having heard the music since childhood.
“In my little Oklahoma hometown, I heard the local high school band play the Hallelujah Chorus while marching down the street,” said Thompson. “They performed every year for the Christmas Parade and would practice by marching through my neighborhood during band class. As they roared past the elementary school…we all ran to the windows to watch. There is nothing like tubas and trombones and drums and flags and batons and big kids playing the Hallelujah Chorus.”
It’s interesting to note that Mozart is responsible for the orchestration of Handel’s oratorio that we are most familiar with today. Though, he wasn’t pleased with the simple Baroque arrangement and reworked the score into a more classical style, similar to the Requiem Mass, what some consider his greatest work.
“Mozart didn’t finish the Requiem before his death and many composers have tried to fill-in the parts to complete the missing sections,” said Thompson. “It is still his masterpiece, I believe. The loving attempts at finding Mozart’s voice, never quite measure up to what he left us. The imperfection of the work magnifies Mozart’s ability and impact.”
According to Dr. David Newnham, choral director at FLC, these pieces are the “Alpha and Omega” of human experience.
“The Messiah depicts the beginning of life with the foretelling and birth of Christ as compared to the death and resurrection of the Requiem,” said Newnham.
Because of the transcendent nature of the music, Newnham is excited to present the works.
“I don’t think I heard the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ until I learned it in choir in high school. I connected with it immediately,” said Newnham. “Hearing the Requiem came a little later, when I was an undergrad at UOP. Since I treasure the music of both Handel and Mozart, I connected to the passion and sense of mercy that the piece can evoke.”
In fact, everyone involved is thrilled to be able to present these masterpieces, including concertmaster Bolormaa Damdinjav, who has admired the works for a long time.
“These are brilliant classical gems that I think the audience will love,” said Damdinjav. “Heading into the holidays, everyone wants to sing and audiences are so familiar with both pieces that I know it will be an uplifting experience.”
Both ARC and FLC bring students and community members together to bring outstanding classical music to the area. The diversity in age, background, and musical ability make a unique experience for participants and audiences.
“I have had the opportunity to work with very many outstanding musicians,” said Thompson. “But that’s not always what determines happiness for me. And even though I perform with professional ensembles on a regular basis, the diversity in our orchestra at American River College is something I really enjoy. The tone of the organization is of warmth and friendship, which can be rare in the performing arts. We also, quite fortunately, have a great number of outstanding musicians who work hard to make sure that everyone has a place in this ensemble.”
One of the people responsible for creating that atmosphere is the concertmaster, Damdinjav.
“I’m happy to play in an orchestra with so much diversity of ages and cultures,” said Damdinjav. “It’s exciting to work with all levels of musicians and working together, we grow together.”
The November 29th performance will be at the American River College Theater at 4700 College Oak Drive in Sacramento. The December 5th concert is at the Harris Center at 10 College Parkway in Folsom. Both performances are at 7:30 pm.