It’s early December and I am knee deep in Messiah season, pumping them out on a daily basis for ensembles all across Chicagoland.
Messiah Messiah Messiah Messiah Messiah….I eat, drink, and breathe this piece morning, noon, and night this time of year. Just what I think I’ve escaped, it pulls me back in with yet another local choral rendition. These Messiah gigs can range from the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between. I’ve had to bite my cheeks from laughing, and I’ve been genuinely moved by the music….often on the same day!
When I run into another freelancer this time of year, I usually have two questions for them:
- How Many Messiahs?
- How Many Nutcrackers?
These are bread-and-butter gigs for any freelance musicians this time of year, and I’m doing several of each the entire month of December.
I wrote a little piece last year around this time about a funny crash-and-burn performance I did of Handel’s Messiah. This kind of wacky events really are par for the course. Sometimes the train wrecks are, in fact, the only thing distinguishing one Messiah from another.
One day I played a quadruple (yes, a quadruple) service day that featured a full Messiah at the end of it! Imagine playing three separate gigs, in three separate towns, and then slogging through three hours (if the conductor’s moving the tempos along decently) of a Messiah performance. My fellow musicians started to wilt on the vine, as did I. D major, G major, A major, Bb major, E minor–they all blend together into a soupy mess of tonality at the end of a day, and it is all you can do to keep your head from exploding.