High Notes interviews Sooke Phil Messiah soloists

This weekend is Messiah weekend in Sooke and Metchosin.

Join us Saturday at Sooke Community Theatre at Edward Milne School,

or Sunday afternoon at New St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin.

Delwynne Windell, tenor, Sam Marcaccini, baritone, and Nancy Washeim, soprano, answered a few questions about this stirring work.

(contributed by Sonja deWit of Sooke Phil High Notes)

 

 

Delwynne Windell is a tenor soloist renowned for his meaningful, elegant, powerful, and emotionally stirring interpretations of oratorios with audiences in Victoria and Sooke. He is South African and has performed extensively on the African continent.

 

Is this your first time singing Messiah, or have you sung it many times already?

This is not my first time singing Messiah. I have sung the tenor solo roles on 63 occasions.

Is there one aria that you sing that’s your favorite? Yes, the aria “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted” is a firm favourite of mine, together with the preceding recitative “Comfort ye,” which were quite poignant for audiences in Harare, Zimbabwe, most of whom, owing to socio-political crises, were hungry on that night and had no homes to which to return. Some approached me and mentioned that the words of these two pieces from Messiah are quite inspirational, uplifting, and encourage them in their faith to look ahead and hope for better times.

What makes these pieces so good?

Throughout Messiah Handel employs a technique called text painting, where the musical notes mimic the lines of text quite effectively. At KwaSizabantu Mission Station in South Africa, the Zulu speaking audience understood the chuckling effect of the word “exalted” in “Every Valley” and smiled back or chuckled with me. It was quite an energizing experience. Messiah has universal appeal, and the text-painting technique enables the text to cross the barriers of language and culture.

What do you think is the biggest challenge to a good Messiah performance?

Because of its powerful message, and the way its religious text can uplift the audience, clarity of diction throughout, from soloists to choir, is of prime importance. Messiah‘s message is also intimate, and musically this needs to be achieved  by taking some weight out of the sound, which is quite a challenge.

How do you explain the incredible popularity of Messiah?

The richness and variety of the music, the insightful matching of word and sound, and the consistently inspired evocations of such universal emotions as pathos, serenity, and joy. It is also a deeply satisfying work to perform, be the artists seasoned professionals or enthusiastic amateurs.

What is your next endeavour after this one?

Two performances of Mozart’s Requiem conducted by Wade Noble at Sooke on 9 April  and at Metchosin on 10 April.

 

Sam Marcaccini is a rising Canadian baritone born and raised on the West Coast. He is known for his rich, powerful voice and robust stage presence.

 

Is this your first time singing Messiah, or have you sung it many times already?

This is my first full Messiah concert. I have sung parts of Messiah before, but have never performed the entire piece.  

 

Is there one aria that you sing that’s your favorite?

“The People That Walked in Darkness.” It is very moving to sing, and I really enjoy the interval changes throughout the passages.

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge to a good Messiah performance?

The biggest challenge is to sing with the original intent of the piece at all times and not get caught up in just singing the notes.

 

How do you explain the incredible popularity of Messiah?

Messiah is popular for many reasons. It is a beautifully composed piece that is very expressive and sensitive. It is also an annual tradition for many people during this season.

 

What is your next endeavour after this one?

I will be performing Messiah with the Vancouver Island Symphony in Nanaimo on 12 December. After that I will be singing the role of Father Christmas in the Mummers Masque with Saltwater Productions at St. Anne’s Academy. The piece is composed by Canadian Dean Burry and is centered on Maritime tradition during the holiday season. Come and see it on 16 and 17 December at 7:30 and on 18 and 19 at 2:30pm.

 

Nancy Washeim is well-known to Sooke and Victoria audiences, particularly for her sensitive Early Music performances.

Is this your first time singing Messiah, or have you sung it many times already? Care to guess how many times? I have sung Handel’s Messiah ten times, and will be up to fourteen at the end of this season. 

Is there one aria that you sing that’s your favorite? I really love so many parts of Messiah. It is a very exciting experience to be part of. There are many wonderful choruses and meaningful arias, and there is beautiful orchestra writing. It’s pretty tough to pick a favourite and for me, it changes from year to year. I enjoy Handel’s word painting, how he brings the text to life in music.  Whenever I hear the Christmas story being read, I hear it as Handel wrote it.

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge to a good Messiah performance?

Accuracy. It is not an easy piece to sing. It takes a lot of practice. You really need to listen to everything that is going on around you. By the time a Messiah performance takes place, most voices are in great shape because of all the careful work that is done in preparation.  I remember hearing an interview with Bryn Terfel, and he said that he “works out in the gym of Handel and Mozart.” Messiah is a great workout.

How do you explain the incredible popularity of Messiah?

To me, it is something that stays current: the sentiment, the human condition, the hope and joy it expresses. It’s hard not to be moved, and to me the Christmas season would not be the same without it. It’s great to hear different interpretations, different tempos… each performance is slightly different. The energy changes. You can usually walk away singing at least one thing you heard. It really stays with you. Perhaps that is part of its great appeal.

What is your next endeavour after this one?

I’m looking forward to singing more Handel (Dixit Dominus) as well as Bach’s Cantata 198 (Trauerode) with the Victoria Philharmonic Choir and the Victoria Chamber Orchestra. I’m also looking forward to working with the Vancouver Handel Society and the Chilliwack Symphony in Spring 2011.

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