Hola a todos. I read today that the San Francisco Ballet has wisely cancelled their Nutcracker performances for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My first thought was: Can we cancel all Messiah performances too? Por favor/please? Then we’ll be getting somewhere in possibly eradicating these useless and ridiculous traditions. People don’t need to hear Messiah for the umpteenth time. Messiah is the most over-performed oratorio in the repertoire. And by the way, it’s NOT “The Messiah” as some musically-ignorant idiots refer to it. It’s just Messiah. “Everyone” has to do Messiah — every podunk Chorus around — even when they don’t possess the choral skills and level of choral excellence that should be required for the oratorio’s performance. And only one part of it is about the birth of Jesús. The thing ends with Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain and the “Amen” section, none of which has anything what-so-ever to do with the birth of Jesús. The way Messiah is over-performed you’d think that Händel only wrote one oratorio, yet the guy wrote — what was it? — wasn’t it around 30 oratorios or so? That’s the number that sticks in my mind. I don’t feel like looking it up and probably nobody cares anyway, so. I did look it up later while writing this article because I was curious how accurate my memory is. Georg Friedrich Händel wrote 29 oratorios. So 28 oratorios sit on the shelf collecting dust every year while Messiah is dragged out on cue like clockwork. One of the most ludicrous traditions we have during the holidays. And the sheeple pack churches and concert halls to hear the thing. I don’t think most people really care about the quality of the performance. To most, I think it’s all about hearing the Hallelujah Chorus (HC). Then in the non-United States, there’s the silly tradition connected with that where the sheeple have to stand just because — according to tradition — the King of England stood for some reason during the HC. His standing may have had nothing to do with the performance. Maybe his butt was hurting. Then some in the audience are tacky enough to applaud after the HC before sitting back down. From what I read, the late Robert Shaw said he couldn’t stand that standing tradition for the HC. I can’t either. Fortunately, I don’t see audiences in the EU standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. At least there’s some intelligence somewhere!
Surprisingly, there are some benefits — ramifications — to COVID-19. One of them is the ceasing of production of pieces of music that are performed merely out of habit and out of silly tradition because the sheeple say, “You have to have Messiah and the Nutcracker during the holidays.” I can’t stand all of this tradition shit. It makes no sense what-so-ever. Just because it’s a certain month or days in a month, drag out Messiah. I suspect if Georg were alive today he’d have something to say about it such as: What is wrong with you people? Are you all idiots? I wrote a plethora of repertoire for Orchestra and Chorus and you brain-dead idiots are stuck on one piece: Messiah. I didn’t even consider it my best oratorio. And there’s another fellow who lived around the same time that I did, Zelenka, you could be performing his works as well, but other than the Collegium 1704 in the Czech Republic, no one knows Zelenka’s name because you have to do your silly Messiah tradition like a bunch of mindless sheep. Have you all gone insane? (Yes, they have Georg, by all indications. That’s why I refer to the Century of Insanity). I suspect Tchaikovsky might say the same thing about his Nutcracker.
I suspect someone is asking: What if not Messiah, what do you suggest they perform? Oh good lord, the list is endless, but here’s a starter:
What works are neglected? A long list of them. There’s Ralph Vaughan Williams’s grand and glorious Hodie, for exanple, and his Dona Nobis Pacem. Other neglected works include, but are not limited to:
JS Bach: The Christmas Oratorio
Berlioz: L’Enfance du Christ
Britten: A Boy Was Born, Saint Nicholas
Brubeck: Fiesta de la Posada
Buxtehude: Das neugeborne kinderlein
Charpentier: Midnight Mass for Christmas, In Nativitatem Domini Jesu Christum
Courtney: A Musicological journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas
Davies, Peter Maxwell: O magnum mysterium
Finzi: In terra pax
Händel: Te Deum
M. Haydn: Run Ye Shepherds to the Light
Herzogenberg: The Birth of Christ
Honegger: Christmas Oratorio
Leighton: Lully Lulla
McKinney: The Annunciation
Mechem: Seven Joys of Christmas
Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors (might do the “Shepherds Carol” from this work)
Pachelbel: Magnificat in G
Stephen Paulus: So Hallowed is the Time, Pilgrim Jesus.
Poulenc: Gloria, Quatre Motets pour Noel
Respighi: Laud to the Nativity
Rheinberger: Die Stern von Bethlehem (cantata)
Rhodes: On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity (Peters – PP66737)
Ringwald: The Song of Christmas
Rutter: Te Deum, Gloria, Magnificat, Where Icicles Hang
Saint-Saens: Christmas Oratorio
Schubert: Mass in D, Mass in G
Schuetz: Christmas Oratorio
Susa: Carols and Lullabies of the Southwest, Christmas Garland
Vaughn Williams: Hodie, The First Nowell, Fantasia on Christmas Carols
Warland: Christmas #1 and #2 (carol settings w/flute and harp)
Willcocks: Christ Is Born
And, any of the symphonic choral works by Zelenka, so take your pick.
One wonders how many people dread the holiday season because of the over-performed music?
I remember when I was in Orchestra Choruses, the Full Chorus was not performing Messiah. Norman Scribner (Choral Arts Society of Washington/National Symphony Orchestra – Kennedy Center Concert Hall) or Vance George (San Francisco Symphony Chorus with the San Francisco Symphony – Davies Symphony Hall) asked the Full Chorus, “If you want to be in the Messiah Chorus, let me know during the break or after rehearsal.” It was not something that everyone wanted to do. If I were in an Orchestra Chorus today, I’d have no interest in being in a Messiah performance, with two exceptions to that: If the late Margaret Hillis (Chicago Symphony Chorus) or the late Dr Paul Traver (University of Maryland Chorus) were the conductor, I’d ask to be in the Chorus. The Hillis and Traver interpretations were most unique and none like I have heard before. Hillis conducted a very “brisk” Messiah as The Washington Post reviewer wrote. Traver had the University of Maryland Chorus add Baroque ornamentation and “fillers” to the score which made it much more interesting. I’d never heard Messiah performed like that before. As I remember, Traver got that interpretation from conductor Erich Leinsdorf. But other than that, no, I’d have no interest in doing it.
I was pleased to see that in the Nederlands, in Amsterdam specifically in this performance here, they performed Mendelssohn’s Elias two days before Navidad/Christmas. They were not performing Messiah. And Elias has nothing to do with Navidad, but the Concert Hall was full, so clearly people in Amsterdam didn’t care about not hearing Messiah.
In my opinion, the symphonic choral works I’ve heard by Zelenka are just as good as those composed by Händel. It’s just that the sheeple — and orchestral management cater to the sheeple because it makes them dinero/$$$$$ — get hung up — per silly tradition — on one particular piece so that’s all we hear year after year after year after year after year after year. It’s insane. The sheeple might like other pieces just as much if not more than Messiah, but they never have the opportunity to hear them because Messiah is always on stage.
Are the holidays losing their popularity because of too much repetition and silly traditional requirements, and having to get together with relatives that you often can’t stand? Chau.—el barrio rosa