The holiday season is a time for traditions: baking sugar cookies using mom’s special recipe, buying that one new ornament to add to your collection, having a gingerbread house decorating contest with the entire family. For many classical music lovers, attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah is one of those traditions. Lucky for them, on December 12th at 7:30pm, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, along with the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, is presenting its annual performance of this holiday masterpiece.
“Messiah is one of the most special compositions ever conceived,” says Scott Allen Jarrett, the Director of Choruses and Assistant Director for the CSO. Jarrett is in awe of Handel’s work, which makes the job of giving new life to the piece each year easy for him. When asked how he accomplishes this task, he says it’s a matter of finding new meaning: “We have to engage this text in a different way. ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.’ Well, what is the glory? Who is the glory?” He asks his singers to turn off their “autopilot” and think about what the words they are voicing really mean. The decades’ worth of Messiah performance dates scribbled on the chorus folders are testament to the Jarrett’s ability (and to those before him) to make this familiar music fresh. The performers keep coming back.
In Jarrett’s understanding, the yearly performances of Messiah act as a framework for life. “To me, [each performance] is a point of the year to measure one’s life. Every year, we can measure our lives, our gains, our losses, in the image of the story. The story does not change, but we do.” Conducting the Messiah becomes a very personal experience for this retrospective musician.
Jarrett has one piece of advice to impart on those of you attending the concert on Wednesday night: “I would say to a listener, first time or thirtieth time listener, listen with great openness, listen as if you’ve never heard the story before.”
Visit charlottesymphony.org for information on the soloists, songs, and tickets.