There's an interesting corollary that bears mentioning: if audience members were polled about what they'd like to hear in terms of programming, they couldn't come up with titles of works they don't know. So, “Messiah” will displace seasonal works by Britten, Rutter or Pinkham every time.
“Messiah” is familiar territory for choral ensembles because of its prominence in the repertoire. The tentative quality that emerged in Bach's “Magnificat” all but vanished in “Messiah,” with full-throated choruses (“And the glory of the Lord,” “For unto us a child is born,” “Lift up your heads” and “Let us break their bonds asunder”) buoyed by confident singing. With Ellefson at the helm, one also got brisk pacing that never sounded rushed, a smart approach for a lengthy work.
Handel's most famous oratorio also offered numerous solo opportunities, from Picon's fine diction in “Comfort Ye” and nice lilt in “But thou,” to Eckard's impressive delivery of the recitative “For behold” and the subsequent aria “The people that walked in darkness.”
More impressive still was his aria “The trumpet shall sound” with Eckard's voice dovetailing nicely with Karl Sievers' trumpet lines. Holst mustered ample sound for the lovely aria “Rejoice greatly” and Ambrosini was well supported by the chorus in “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.”
All of this led to the work's majestic finale, the “Hallelujah Chorus.” With the audience standing, a curious tradition that nevertheless creates a strong bond between performers and patrons, the uplifting strains of this popular chorus rang out with ample pomp and majesty. The magic of Christmas awaits.
— Rick Rogers