Today the Symphony Orchestra and the combined choirs of the College Choir, Symphonic Chorale, Women's Choir, and Children's Choir performed Mendelssohn's Elijah. I know it was not perfect, but in a way it was still everything I hoped it would be, and more. I mean, the whole project of preparing for Elijah was just... wow. Rehearsals were so much fun - and so much work, too - and the music is just so amazing. I loved every minute of preparation for this performance. Today was undoubtedly one of the biggest thrills of my life. (Oh, and FavoriteBoy's dad came, and I got to meet him.)
The soloists, Craig Hart, Huw Priday, Elizabeth Woolett, and Heidi Clark were fabulous. The audience turnout was incredible: the entire chapel was completely packed out and they ended up having to turn away over 50 people. The performance lasted about three hours including intermission. At intermission, Dr. Ou rushed backstage and told all the violins that our descending scale at the end of Thanks be to God had been absolutely perfect, absolutely together. She was so proud, and it made me happy seeing how much she cares for us. I think I saw her crying during Blessed are the men who fear Him. With the last note of the oratorio, the audience literally leapt to their feet with a standing ovation, and the applause went on and on. After it was all over, my teacher (who is also our conductor) hugged me tightly and asked me, "was it worth it, coming to Gordon, just for this?" It most decidedly was.
The overture - playing that fugue is thrilling.
The ascending chromatic line transitioning into Help Lord, and hearing the choir come in.
His mercies on thousands fall, on all them that love Him and keep His commandments. The violins have the most beautiful part here, beneath this text. I almost cry every time I play it, just because I love it so much and it's so gorgeous.
For He shall give His angels charge over thee; that they shall protect thee in all ways thou goest; that their hands shall uphold and guide thee, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. The words are beautiful. The music is beautiful.
"Give me thy son. Turn unto her, O Lord my God, O turn in mercy; in mercy help this widow’s son. For Thou art gracious, and full of compassion, and plenteous in mercy and truth. Lord, my God, let the spirit of this child return, that he again may live!"
"Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that His word in thy mouth is the truth. What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?"
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, love Him with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. O blessed are they who fear Him!"
Blessed are the men who fear Him; they ever walk in the ways of peace. Through darkness riseth light to the upright. He is gracious, compassionate; He is righteous. It doesn't get much better than this. I love the bit about light rising through darkness - the music sets it perfectly.
"And then we shall see whose God is the Lord!"
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He never will suffer the righteous to fall: He is at thy right hand. Thy mercy, Lord, is great, and far above the heavens. Let none be made ashamed, that wait upon Thee!"
Thanks be to God, He laveth the thirsty land! The waters gather, they rush along; they are lifting their voices! The stormy billows are high; their fury is mighty. But the Lord is above them, and Almighty! Learning to play the sixteenth notes during the bit where the waters gather and rush along was so difficult... but today it was so worth it.
Though thousands languish and fall beside thee, and tens of thousands around thee perish, yet still it shall not come nigh thee.
Lift thine eyes, o lift thine eyes to the mountains, whence cometh help. Thy help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He hath said, thy foot shall not be moved, thy keeper will never slumber. This was sung by the Children's Choir. It was not sung perfectly, but I thought it was quite perfect all the same. This is one of my favorite movements.
He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps. Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish, He will quicken thee.
He that shall endure to the end, shall be saved. This was one of my favorite moments. After we finished, Mr. B. waited, holding his hands over his heart as he let the whole feel of the piece just settle and remain on all of us for a few moments.
And after the fire there came a still small voice. And in that still voice onward came the Lord.
Holy, holy, holy is God the Lord, the Lord Sabaoth! Now His glory hath filled all the earth.
And then there was a wonderful pause, and as we waited to begin the next chorus, I realized that it was almost over. The chorus would begin, and move into the next quartet attaca, and then the final chorus. I imagined the majestic, triumphant, wonderful sound of the next chorus beginning... it is a great moment in the oratorio.
But the Lord from the North hath raised one, who from the rising of the sun shall call upon His Name and come on princes. Behold, my servant and mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth! On him the spirit of God shall rest: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of might and of counsel, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord: "I have raised one from the North, who from the rising, on My Name shall call."
And then shall your light break forth as the light of morning breaketh: and your health shall speedily spring forth then: and the glory of the Lord ever shall reward you. Lord, our Creator, how excellent Thy Name is in all the nations! Thou fillest heaven with Thy glory!
Amen. Amen. Amen!
I was so happy.
What can I say? It's all perfect. The word of God is perfect, and the music of Mendelssohn is inspired.
There is something about playing this work that makes me feel connected to a great history and to a part of something so much greater than myself, and I feel it even more strongly with this oratorio than with most other music. Today, I felt connected to Mendelssohn; to Elijah; to the widow; to every emotion expressed; to everyone who had ever languished in grief; to everyone who had ever walked in the way of peace; to everyone who had ever been sustained by the Lord; to everyone who had ever lifted their eyes to the mountains for help... all these stories and emotions are right there in the music, because music is that powerful to express so much.
I wish we could do it again.