Friday, 2 December 2016

Scratch Messiah, the Return.

Being a 'lady of a certain age on a mission to prove that life can still be and adventure', I'm always on the look out for new challenges. I love to sing and I'm a member of a choir. But we tend to sing contemporary songs or songs from musicals.
Last year I decided to challenge myself and signed myself up to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London, as part of the 'Scratch Messiah.' For anyone who's never heard of it, this is an event which has been put on every year since 1974, by The Really Big Chorus. The idea is that people from all over the world rehearse Handel's Messiah in their own home towns or cities, then on the last Sunday of November, they all come together in the Royal Albert Hall in London, and perform it.
Now choral singing of this sort isn't really something I've ever done before. But I decided that it was an experience too good to miss. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but felt completely under rehearsed, so I decided to go for it again this year. 
I had to do most of my rehearsing at home using a CD and DVD which came with the song book. but I was determined that this year I'd be better prepared. 
We had a bit of a nightmare journey. Due to roadworks it took us three and a half hours to do a ninety minute journey. But we arrived with five minutes to spare, and after a quick visit to the loo, we were in our seats and ready to go.
There's a colour dress code for the choir members. Altos have to wear red, sopranos, blue and the men, black tie. I looked around and one half of the Royal Albert Hall was a sea of blue, right up to the seats near the roof, and the other half, red. The men were sitting on the floor just in front of the orchestra. There was a real sense of anticipation and excitement in the hall. 
Finally, the conductor, Brian Kay, and the 4 soloists took their places on the podium. 
The orchestra begins with the overture, followed by the tenor singing his first solo. Then it's the turn of the chorus. There were over 3,000 of us, with people from 12 countries around the world, from as far away as Canada to NorwayCan you imagine the impact that must have on an audience? This was the first time the young tenor had performed the Messiah and when we started to sing, his mouth fell open in surprise and then he looked around with a huge smile on his face. 
The atmosphere was amazing and the audience sat entranced until the conductor motioned them to stand as we sang the Hallelujah chorus.
After the last Amen, the applause went on for ages. No one wanted the evening to end.
A friend of one of my fellow choir members who was in the audience, a man in his 60's, said that it was , 'Magical. The highlight of his life.'
I have to agree. 
I've done it twice now. But I intend to keep on doing it every year for as long as I can.
Here's a link to a video of the Hallelujah Chorus from a performance a few years ago. Have a listen and see what you think.

Photos Isabel's own or by permission of Diane Iverson Mullinger.

Isabel Johnstone 2016 ©

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