Electric Messiah IV

Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah is back for a fourth outing, again under the musical direction of Adam Scime.  The formula is basically the same as previous years.

  • Take excerpts from Handel’s Messiah
  • Add some new music
  • Arrange for small chamber ensemble, electronics and turntables (Sarah Svendsen, analog and electric harpsichord; Joel Schwartz, electric guitar; Jeff McLeod, electric organl; SlowPitchSound, turntablist)
  • Take a quartet of singers from different vocal traditions (Jonathan MacArthur, Katherine Hill, Aviva Chernick and Alex Samaras)
  • Throw in a dancer (Lybido)
  • Have some of the text sung in a language relevant to the singer (Gaelic, Hebrew, Swedish this time)
  • Stage it at Drake Underground

This year in addition there was some interpolated music not directly derived from Messiah; to whit, a gospel piece for Samaras called “Personal Jesus” and a harpsichord solo.

em4

Continue reading

The Word made Flesh or Is Nothing Sacred?

jennensIn reviewing Against the Grain’s staged version of Handel’s Messiah I alluded to having had some thoughts about staging Messiah. That’s because, although I realised that the AtG production was quite excellent it was also making me a bit uncomfortable and I needed to think through why that was. I also wanted to think about in relation to a very different approach to staging the piece; that taken by Claus Guth at the Theater an der Wien in 2009. There also seems to be a fashion for this sort of thing emerging with a St. Matthew Passion, also in Vienna, and the TSO about to stage Mozart’s Requiem. What can we say about staging a work that was never intended to be staged and doesn’t even tell a story as Handel’ other oratorios do? Some of the thoughts that follow might apply to staging any non-narrative religious text but most will be very specific to Handel’s Messiah and specifically rooted in the text selection by Charles Jennens.

Continue reading