We began rehearsal tonight with the excellent news that the Bethlehem performance is now sold out, and we’re expecting a full house in Millersville as well! This is wonderful news – we want as many people as possible to hear these performances. Greg Funfgeld continued to apply his refiner’s fire to this fiery work at tonight’s rehearsal. The orchestra has benefitted greatly from a second day of rehearsals, and we were delighted to welcome mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson back to Bethlehem. Her thoughts about Elijah were captured beautifully by the Express Times’ Melinda Rizzo in a preview here. She’s singing in fine form, as are our other soloists, Rosa Lamoreaux, Mark Boyle, and, as Elijah, Dashon Burton.
One highlight tonight was in the 41st movement, which begins extremely quietly, as the men of the choir sing, “But the Lord from the north had raised one who from the rising on his name shall call.” The orchestra then begins an extended sequence that seems to paint the picture of a rising sun, with the choir adding the to the build-up. I have to confess, the harmony reminds me of the beginning of John Barry’s classic Bond theme for “Live and Let Die.” (Barry clearly knew his Mendelssohn!) The crescendo lasts two pages of the choral score, slowly building to a rapturous moment. I think we sang it beautifully the first time, and then Greg stopped to ask the orchestra to crescendo “poco a poco a poco a poco…” (little by little by little), until the big moment. We tried it again, and it was ravishing – Mark Boyle, who was sitting halfway down the nave stood up with silent applause.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this process is the sense of collaboration and unity in each individual player and singer doing his or her absolute best. Greg readily accepts and answers questions, Liz Field, our concertmaster will pause to experiment with bowing, wind players mark down the breaths that the choir will be taking, etc. It’s an atmosphere of shared discovery – each musician digs in deeply to bring this marvelous piece to life. Tomorrow, we travel to Millsersville for the first performance. Stay tuned, and I’ll post about that upon our return!