With so many Messiahs to choose from, it’s hard to get a Handel on which performance you should see (couldn’t help myself, sorry!). This year I have the good fortune of going to see the Apollo Chamber Orchestra’s production at Saint John’s Smith Square. I spoke with conductor David Cherniak and asked him: what is special about your Messiah? This is his response.
“Apollo Chamber orchestra started 1989, a professional group with new people regularly added to keep it fresh, while still keeping the feel and style similar, with a warm and generous sound. The choir is freelance, assembled for choral concerts. Messiah we started doing 12 years ago and have pretty consistently used the same soloists so there is a team feel to it although the choir has changed a bit. The consistency means our production has a good, solid sound.
“I use my own edition of the score using the best of the best for both the orchestra and choir parts. You can’t do everything that’s in the book because it’s changed so much and there have been so many different versions. That said, our version stays consistent from year to year and suits the singers we have. It’s a sensible approach to take: do the best research but then interpret it yourself. [Handel] took many different approaches so we, like him, have chosen an approach that works for us. To do it all would be too long! Everybody does [the first section] in its entirely but some of two or three will always have to be cut. At the end, we include the soprano aria “If God Be For Us,” because I like it so much and to have [it] paired with the “The Trumpets Shall Sound” sets us up beautifully for the final amen.
“Our audience can be people that have come to hear us before, others are tourists or people who love St John’s (the sound and how it looks), and then people who just love the Messiah. It just sets up Christmas beautifully!”
(The Apollo Chamber Choir and Orchestra will be performing Messiah by Candlelight on Sunday, December 16th, at 7:30 PM at Saint John’s Smith Square. Nearest Tube station Westminster. Review tickets were provided by GBZ management.)