Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise

It is that time of year where the traditional and non-traditional holiday concerts pop up everywhere you live. As a kid in a family of five, my parents tried to take us to at least one holiday events each year. Now as an adult I try to do the same thing when the holiday season comes along. I have a soft spot in my heart for Handel's Messiah. Why? Well in high school my orchestra & choir teacher (yes I had the same teacher twice a day for four years) loved this oratorio so much that selections of this oratorio were sung and played every year at the Christmas concert. I had the luxury to play the music for three years and was to sing it my senior year. I love love this large piece of music. In the mid-90s a group of Contemporary Christian artists created a group called "The Young Messiah" which took the original piece of Handel's Messiah and brought it to well the 90s making it a bit more up to date. It turned out amazing. This year in Cleveland, I saw an event that I had to go to. The event was called Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise. I said, "I have to go to this...and if it is done right then it will be very cool!"

The description of Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise that I read was more or less of, "Come join us for a night of Handel's Messiah put to rock music mixed with the traditional orchestra." I thought..."Sweet!!! I have to see this!" I had mentioned it to Rob and he didn't know what to think as he had never heard the original oratorio before. I told him that if this was done correctly it would be very cool, but if it was done wrong then it would be an utter mess. Below is a clip of what I should expect!!

The night of the event we sit in our seats at the Palace Theatre, located in Cleveland's Playhouse Square in Cleveland. I start looking at the information of the show to see which songs would be played or sung from the original oratorio. I look at the listing and they had changed the names of the songs. I was kind of in panic, but I told myself that they were just taking the songs to the next level and making them a bit more modern. The performers were described as THE TENOR, THE WOMAN, THE BARITONE and THE CHOIR. Just before the show starts, some of the cast members come out on stage to get the crowd riled up by starting the wave. I personally think that the "wave" is meant only for sporting events of large arenas. I was thinking, "Ok, this is awkward! This better not be a foreshadowing of what is to come." The lights then dim to notify people to take their seats as the show is about to start.

Part One: The Mystery of Faith
Comfort Yet
 He'll Come in Glory
He is Fire

First up, the Overture. A guitarist starts playing and it is not what Handel's Messiah Overture sounds like, but it didn't sound too bad at first until then the rest of the musicians started playing. Oye...this is not a good combo. The guitarist was not in key or was just really bad and I knew that this may have been a big mistake. The guitarist stops playing and the orchestra starts up and plays what the beginning of the original should sound like. The guitarist then steps in to try and do a solo which just really goes down hill. I looked at Rob and said..."What?!!" Next the Tenor comes out and sings one of my favorite songs of the oratorio which is Comfort Ye. This song won me back over just like taking in a good drink after having eating something bad. The next song, He'll come in Glory which was The Woman and the choir. By listening to the song I gathered that this was suppose to be And the Glory of the Lord as that is what would have came next if I was listening to the original oratorio. The next song I was very confused about. The title was called He is Fire. The images on the big screen were of fire and very dark images. I thought to myself, "I know that the original song, And He Shall Purify is written in a minor key and it a bit dark...but what I was viewing on stage was well really dark. Here I thought The Baritone was suppose to be depicted as the devil. I was very confused and really wanted to get up and leave, but I knew I had to sit through it until the end of the whole show. The last song of Part One was called Rejoice which was more or less, Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion. The Woman did an amazing job and I loved every song that she came out to sing.

 Part Two: The Power of Love
He was Despised
He Trusted You
King of Glory
He Is My Son

Next up was the second part. I was hoping that this would get better, but it never did. Out of the songs that were sung the one that was probably was the one titled, He was Despised. It was very very dark and it didn't make much sense to be part of what Handel's Messiah, and didn't sound like any of what the original song was suppose to be. By this song I started to see people get up and leave. I think they had enough and just wanted out. I was really mad, but sat hoping that it could turn around. The song PIFA reminded me of the Pastoral, very mellow and pretty. 

Part 3: The Hope for Peace 
How Beautiful 
I Know My Redeemer Lives
We Will All be Changed
If God Is For Us
Amen/It is So
A Child Is Born

By the time the third part was starting I couldn't wait for this show to be over. The song I Know My Redeemer Lives was amazing!!! If they could have sang this song and a few others that I liked over and over for two hours, I would have been satisfied!!  This song and Amen/It is So were awesome. I got goose bumps when these songs were sung. When the show came to the Hallelujah Chorus would probably be butchered and it was indeed, and when the last song was being sung I was in the process of trying to get my jacket on so that we could leave very soon. 

I walked away feeling ripped off and very frustrated. The Woman and The Tenor had amazing voices, though. I know that in the future, I will have to look for the traditional version of this Christmas Oratorio. I told Rob that what he saw was not a good depiction of what the original was and so still too this day he still hasn't seen Handel's Messiah. What I would love to find for next year (and if I were in Portland, I would totally go) is to find an event that is called "Sing your own Messiah". Portland did this for many years and may still be doing it where other Handle Messiah lovers come together in a venue and sing selections of the oratorio together. I have had friends who have went to something like this and said that it is very cool. Until then, I will just have to pull out my Handel's Messiah CD and my Young Messiah CD to listen to while I drive to and from work.

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