In terms of the popularity, George Friderich Handel’s “Messiah” probably is ranked the No. 1 oratorio in the United States.
“Americans love the ‘Messiah’ because it’s a beautiful piece of Baroque music depicting the holiday season and beyond. And it’s sung in English,” said mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Zander-Wall.
Zander-Wall is one of four soloists who will be performing the work on Friday, Dec. 6 at Central United Methodist Church with the New Mexico Philharmonic and the church choir.
The performance will present the Christmas portion of the oratorio and excerpts from the Easter section, she said.
The work, written as a drama to appeal to secular audiences, premiered in Dublin, Ireland in April 1742.
“It’s so bold and great an idea. It’s a joyous piece to sing,” Zander-Wall said.
“Handel is always a wonderful composer for singers. Even Philip Glass said that when he auditioned singers he wanted to hear Handel. It requires basic, wonderful, straightforward technique. (‘Messiah’) is fun to sing and it’s fun to play off the orchestra.”
Zander-Wall, an Albuquerque resident, has given more than 50 recitals in the United States and Europe as well as has appeared in operatic roles. She was a soloist with Robert Shaw in a performance of Arthur Honegger’s oratorio “King David” in Boston.
The other three soloists in the Dec. 6 performance are emerging soprano Cree Carrico, who is making her debut as a soloist singing “Messiah”; tenor Colin Burdge, an Albuquerque native who was a soloist in Orff’s “Carmina Catulli” with the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus; and bass-baritone Ivan Conrad, who is from Albuquerque. Conrad returns here to sing with the vocal ensemble Polyphony later in December.
Conrad said “Messiah” has been in his repertoire for many years and each year it gets a little bit easier to sing.
“It’s so nice to revisit it,” he said.
Jerrilyn Foster, who is preparing the 40 choir members for the concert, said they sing expressively and believes their voices are well matched.
“I think they’re particularly strong this year,” said Foster, who is director of traditional music ministries at the church.
Conducting is David Felberg, the orchestra’s associate concertmaster. The concert is part of the philharmonic’s Neighborhood Concert Series.