Messiah refreshed

December 7, 2016   ·   0 Comments

When music lovers everywhere think of Christmas, the two works most likely to come to mind are Handel’s oratorio The Messiah and Tchaikovsky’s ballet suite The Nutcracker, but this season neither is being performed locally.

However, there was a local touch in a recent performance at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall dubbed Messiah Refreshed! which was live-streamed by the BBC on December 4 and is still available, both on Facebook and on the website of Distinguished Concerts In New York (DCINY), .

The performance involved about 500 voices from choirs around the world (including Australia and Hong Kong), with half the choristers singing Part One plus the Hallelujah and Amen choruses and the other half Parts Two and Three of the Handel masterpiece.

Although most of the choirs were from the United States, there were members and guests of two local ones led by the same conductor, John Wervers – the Alliston-based New Tecumseth Singers and Orangeville’s Dufferin Choral Singers.

An invitation to participate in the production was received last spring. Although most, if not all, of the two choirs’ roughly 70 members would have liked to go, and the fee for attendance was a reasonable $750 (US), the cost with transportation, accommodation and meals was obviously too much for most of the singers, and ultimately only about 30 made the trip south.

Having enjoyed a similar trip to New York with the Headwaters’ Concert Choir in February 2014, I was eager to go and found similar willingness on the part of daughter Nancy and two friends Cathy Wilson and Carol Hulcoop. Mr. Wervers was happy to add them to the contingent, and Nancy set to work determining whether she could beat the overall costs involved in the DCINY package by arranging our own flights and accommodation.

She succeeded amazingly, albeit not without some unexpected challenges. The flights were to and from New York’s La Guardia by Air Canada Express, and the accommodation arranged through airb&b Inc. was a four-bedroom apartment just a few blocks from Carnegie Hall in midtown Manhattan -– expensive, but seemingly the best deal available and not as costly as the lodgings provided in the package deal.

However, long after paying and just a couple of weeks before we were to depart, Nancy was advised that the apartment would not be available as it was undergoing renovations, and although airb&b said it had other accommodation in the area, none looked particularly attractive and Nancy opted to search anew for a suitable site.

What she came up with was two rooms at a 114-year-old hotel I had never head of. However, the Wellington Hotel was cheaper than the apartment, just down Seventh Avenue from Carnegie Hall and would presumably be handy to the rehearsal hall.

Mr. Wervers arranged to have our Messiah rehearsals at Mansfield’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoons, which turned out fine save for the fact it meant a challenging drive home on Nov. 20 thanks to a combination of snow, rain and wind.

The weather wasn’t any better when we left on Nov. 24, with thick fog leaving us wondering whether the flight would take off. But the fog lifted and the plane took off on schedule for La Guardia.

When we arrived the big question was how best to get to Manhattan. The advice given and accepted was to take a bus/subway shuttle to the hotel that cost us each just $2.75 US. When we arrived at the 57th Street station on the R Train we found the hotel was located between the two station exits and across the street from the rehearsal hall, a ballroom under the Park Central hotel.

On registering, we got the shock of our lives. Instead of two double-bed rooms we had been given two beautiful eighth-floor suites that each included a bed/sitting room double the size of an ordinary hotel room as well as a refrigerator, microwave and room service – all that for a lot less than the apartment would have cost.

Although we had long rehearsals Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, there was time for a trip up to the One World observation deck at the World Trade Centre and a visit Saturday evening to the season festivities at the Rockefeller Centre.

The performance itself was enjoyable but pretty exhausting, and we’ll leave it to you readers to determine how well we did.

But for the four of us it was the experience of a lifetime.

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