Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A More Profound Messiah

Ivars really gets into it!

Ivars Taurins

I have just returned from my first rehearsal with Ivars Taurins. Maestro Taurins is the conductor of Tafelmusik and a Handel expert.  In Toronto he dresses up as Handel when he conducts it, I don`t  think he will do that here.  The first time I saw him conduct was in the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra 2011/12 season where he offered a complete evening of Handel. Little excerpts from this work and that, orchestral and choral, it was the best MCO concert I have attended. From that moment on I was looking forward to working with him.

We have 4 rehearsals of the Messiah with him prior to our two performances with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
During the rehearsal today I experienced joyous laughter and such profound emotion I had to work hard not to cry.  First off I have to say that it was so touching to find out that he likes altos. He thought we had important parts to sing and had us come out in lines that have never been pointed out to me before, and I have sung the Messiah for more than a handful of times.!( Although I can't compete with Ivars who has performed it over a hundred times and is still excited still inspirational about it.) For example in the "His Yoke is Easy Chorus" he said every line the altos sing is important. What? Us? OOOO La La.  At one point he called our sustained A in another chorus the rib cage of the whole section.  Yes, the altos are supporting the whole choir for those 5 beats.   Go Altos!

I have never worked with a conductor who is so animated! He swoops and scampers across the floor encouraging us to create life out of the notes on the page. He tells us the Messiah is an attempt to bring mystery and prophecy back. The whole work is obliquely telling us there was a prophecy and it came true. Obliquely because there are no characters or narrator to tell us but the orchestra, soloists,and chorus work together  to tell this story.

The images he gives us to tell the story are like no other. When we come to the word "grief" in "Surely" he tells us to sing it as though we are Italian Grandmas, who have lost their precious grandson in the shopping mall, wailing with fist in  mouth.  Okay, yes, we can do that!   When he wants you to strike a note and then gradually diminuendo he tells us that "this is the moment the pelican hits the plate glass window and slowly slides down"  After he gave us this image each section could perform this beautifully.  SPLAT, scare the audience and then slowly fade out. Of course each image is acted out with grandiose gestures and a highly animated face.   In the "Glory to God" chorus he tells us we start off mezzo piano as the heavens have just opened and the angels are far away then they come and scare the shepherds while the orchestra flutters along with angel wings and the chorus sings the steady Peace on Earth.  and then at the end we diminuendo because of course we are ascending back into heaven.  Lovely.  Every technical bit of information he gives comes with a picture (Pelican, blue whale for a swell etc) and a reason for that particular action.

 Another one of my favourites is "For Unto us a Child is Born" which he has dubbed the golfer's chorus with all the shouts of  'For" "Fore" Fore".  He instructs us here to draw a heart above the quarter note on the word "us" when we sing "unto uuus"   and over "a son is given" to remind us to sing like loving and parents.  What a beautiful way to mark a swell on a note in a song such as this.  We are proud parents who repeat what our spouse has just said,( as spouses do), 'yes, unto us a son is born"  "Yes, unto us a son is given",  A loving dialogue.  sigh. When your voice section gets to that part he shapes a heart with his hands and holds it towards you.

Ivars provides so many profound moments of text interpretation you feel as though you are in a play.  After his instructions I felt as though I needed to go and ponder it for half an hour instead of applying it immediately.  Ivars Taurins breathes new life into the Messiah making even the rehearsal a profound spiritual experience.   This is a link to Ivars discussing the Messiah. He recorded Messiah with Tafelmusik recently and it is on You Tube so I encourage you to play it or buy this recording - it is a beauty


  1. oh rats... and after the Messiah in 2008 I figured nothing could top that one, so I would not be missing out, well that is what I was trying to console myself with. I SEE I am missing out a great deal, what a performance this will be!!!! What fun you are having at rehearsal, and so emotional, so nice to have a conductor so personalize the piece. I love it , yes I said love it, the photo of him in costume.
    I saw you had posted something but then it was gone, guess you were still working on it, so I was anxiously waiting to see it.

  2. ooh I just saw the video and it has brought tears... go out and spread the message of Peace and Goodwill to your audience!!!