As Brian Cohen discovered picking a Messiah is a tricky business. So is picking a Messiah. As usual the winter solstice season in Toronto offers multiple options. The nearest thing to the John Barbirolli approach is the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall. This is your big, grand Messiah with famous soloists, modern instruments and a big chorus. This year, besides the perennial Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, there are soloists Erin Wall, Liz DeShong, Andrew Staples and John Relyea and, best of all, Andrew Davis conducts. This one is on December 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th at 8pm with a 3pm matinee on the 20th.
The baroque alternative, of course, is Tafelmusik at Trinity St. Paul’s. Soloists are Joanne Lunn, Mary-Ellen Nesi, Rufus Müller and Nathaniel Watson. Ivars Taurins conducts. It’s at 7.30pm on December 16th through 19th with the annual “sing-along” version at Massey Hall at 2pm on the 20th.
Against the Grain are restaging their 2013 choreographed version, hopefully with new improved weather, December 16th through 18th at 8pm and the 19th at 2pm at Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Soloists are Miriam Khalil, Andrea Ludwig, Owen McCausland and Stephen Hegedus (can he match Geoff Sirett’s sheep impersonation?). Topher Mokrzewski will conduct an 18-piece orchestra and 16-member chorus. Staging/choreography is by Joel Ivany and Jenn Nichols.
Then there’s a newcomer from Soundstreams. On December 7th and 8th at 8pm at Drake Hotel Underground you can catch Electric Messiah. This version uses four singers, accompanied by guitar and electronics, to explore the work through the lens of different styles and cultural backgrounds. The singers are South Indian sound poet Gabriel Dharmoo, improvisation specialist and minister’s daughter Christine Duncan, the inimitable
Carla Huhtanen, and Maliseet musician Jeremy Dutcher. As a narrative through line, turntable artist SlowPitch Sound will mix Messiah old and new in humorous and poignant response to the other performers. There’s also staging and lighting by Ashlie Corcoran and Patrick Lavender. It’s interactive and partly improvised so expect a Messiah like no other.
So something pretty much for everyone.