My Christmas blogs have a tendency to be about Handel’s Messiah. Not surprising since it is inevitably a highlight of the season. This year was no exception. We got tickets to the Minnesota Chorale performance with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at Saint Mary’s Basilica in downtown Minneapolis.
We almost didn’t make it.
I used to sing with the Minnesota Chorale back in the days when I studied library and information science at University of Minnesota and founder Robert Berglund conducted. I remember the shock of my first rehearsal when the choir opened their mouth for warm up. This was no college choir. This was adult voices, rich and full. Now the official choir of the Minnesota Orchestra, they still have a wonderful sound. The reverb in this gorgeous basilica is a full four seconds. That muddied the words somewhat, but we had the text before us for the lesser-known pieces when memory failed. And the impact of that grand pause before the last Amen was breath-taking.
We have been enjoying the smaller Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra ever since the long, drawn-out Minnesota Orchestra strike a few years ago forced us to look elsewhere for our classical music “fix”. They were delightful.
And the basilica is gorgeous. Minnesota is a fairly young state. The basilica was only built in 1915, but the architecture reflects earlier centuries. The life-sized statues of saints and prophets evoke the riches of biblical history—a perfect setting for this rendering of the great passages of Advent, Christmas, Easter and our future hope of resurrection. I did manage not to sing along. (I was a bit worried about that.) Again I found the experience of meditating on these texts deeply worshipful. This time I have actually gotten so far as to start a file to write down thoughts for a future book entitled, The Gospel According to George, dedicated to those people who love Handel's music, but have no idea what it is all about.
So here is my Christmas wish for all of you: May you know the Messiah who was born at Bethlehem, was crucified to buy us back from our hell-bent destiny, and rose from the dead to give us new life.