For many music lovers, Handel’s Messiah rhymes with the holiday season. This great classic of Baroque music was presented last night at Salle Bourgie, much to the delight of the audience gathered for the occasion. The concert was also a collaboration between Arion Orchestre Baroque and the Studio de Musique ancienne de Montréal (SMAM). The musicians and choristers of both ensembles, under the direction of Andrew McAnerney of the SMAM, offered a luminous performance of remarkable precision.
As we could tell from the information projected on the back wall of the stage before the concert began, all the instruments used were period instruments or reproductions thereof. As a result, the sound quality was entirely characteristic of those Baroque orchestras that are committed to historically informed interpretation. There were a lot of performers for the tiny stage of Salle Bourgie, but the sound texture remained soft, almost intimate, without losing any of its depth. You could see the complicity between members of the same section, as they exchanged knowing glances and smiles.
The quality of the ensemble playing by Arion and SMAM is remarkable. The choir, composed of 3 performers per section, is homogeneous, and each section sings as if with a single voice. The precision of both choir and orchestra is equally commendable. And this consistency and rigour are maintained throughout the entire performance (2 hours and a half!). The same can be said of the soloists, whose impeccable diction lets you hear every syllable of the text, taken from the various books of the Bible. The vocal power of baritone Geoffroy Salvas, in particular, is impressive.
An interesting feature of this concert is the use of NEX-perience software, which enables the audience to obtain an interactive program on their smartphones during the concert. Throughout the concert, short facts scrolled across our phones without having to touch them. This information sometimes concerned Handel’s life, the creation of Messiah, or simply information on the musical rhetoric used in this oratorio. An interesting, easy-to-access offering that renews the concert experience.
Despite the very dark nature of some of the lyrics, this performance is nonetheless full of light and conveys a magnificent message of peace. We leave this long evening energized.
Two other performances will take place at Salle Bourgie: Saturday, November 18 at 4 pm and Sunday, November 19 at 2:30 pm. INFO AND TICKETS HERE!