Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) presents “Messiah…Refreshed!”
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra, Distinguished Concerts Singers International
Jonathan Griffith, Music Director
Diana McVey, soprano; Claudia Chapa, mezzo-soprano; John McVeigh, tenor; Christopher Job, bass.
Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
November 29, 2015
‘Tis the season! The post-Thanksgiving “holiday season” is here, with talk of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”, and a never-ending stream of enticements for eager shoppers. In the backdrop of this commercial madness, Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) offered their own enticement to music lovers, their 5th anniversary performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, in what they call “Messiah…Refreshed!” Using the 1959 Eugene Goossens re-orchestration for full symphony orchestra and with chorus members from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New York, Tennessee, Washington, Brazil, Canada, France, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and “individual singers from around the globe,” the mood was set for what was to be a special afternoon.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the second anniversary of Messiah… Refreshed! in 2012. I will not repeat the historical background of the work and this particular version here; however, the interested reader can follow the link to read what I had written in 2012- Messiah 2012. What was to be of particular interest to me for this concert was the following: 1) How would the soloists fare with such large forces behind them? 2) How would the 2015 performance compare to the 2012?
Jonathan Griffith took the stage and led this mighty assemblage with the practiced assurance that I have come to take for granted from this fine musician. Maestro Griffith never resorts to any histrionics, but one can see how hard he is working at the podium and how much he brings out of his performers. From the clear direction he gives to the orchestra to the sure hand with which he guides the chorus, his expertise is always in evidence in what is not at all an easy task.
Let’s answer the second question first. What was apparent to me was the greater restraint shown by the percussionists, as opposed to the much more extroverted 2012 edition. The orchestra playing was polished, exuberant without excessive bombast, and showed that continued performances of this work are sure to show continued deepening. It was still “big” without being “big and clumsy.” It should be interesting to follow the continued evolution of future Messiah performances from DCINY.
The vocal soloists were more than equal to the dual challenge of dealing with their extremely demanding parts while projecting above and through the wall of sound behind them. Soprano Diana McVey, who was announced as a last-minute substitute, deserves bonus kudos. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion was the highlight of her solos. Mezzo-soprano Claudia Chapa probably had the most difficult task, as her range often finds itself swallowed by the large forces in the orchestra, but she projected well throughout. She wrung every drop of despair out of He was despised, in what was the highlight of her solos. Tenor John McVeigh’s voice soared throughout with complete assurance. It is not easy to single out one solo for special mention, but Behold, and see if there be any sorrow, was my favorite. Bass Christopher Job was a powerhouse. His Why do the nations so furiously rage together? showed his skill to great advantage.
The chorus was well prepared, and their diction was remarkable, especially when considering that English was likely not the first language of a large number of the chorus members.
One cannot speak about Messiah without mention of the Hallelujah chorus. This listener has been to many DCINY concerts, so I knew very well what was to come. Both second and third tiers were filled with singers, ready to rise on cue. Yes, I knew that that was coming, and when it was to occur – and yet when it did, I was still floored! The magnificent sound of over 400 voices filling the hall as the audience stood (many of those in the audience singing along) washed away my most stubborn attempts to be jaded. Over the top? Perhaps. Thrilling? Absolutely! The audience must have felt likewise, as the thunderous applause at the end of the chorus continued for several minutes.
What follows this is almost an anti-climax, yet the final chorus Worthy is the Lamb that was slain was also given the grand treatment. This time it was the audience that got caught in the excitement and began to applaud at the grand pause that precedes the extended “Amen” from the chorus. The Amen was a glorious ending to a glorious performance. The audience applause was immediate in what quickly became a thunderous ovation. Congratulations to all for a truly uplifting concert experience.