Hallelujah! ‘Messiah’ returns to the valley
Special to The Aspen Times
Grace Church in Basalt: Thu, Dec 10 at 7 p.m.
Snowmass Chapel: Fri, Dec 11 at 7 p.m.
Glenwood Methodist Church: Sat, Dec 12 at 7 p.m.
St. Mary’s Aspen: Sun, Dec 13 at 7 p.m.
The Aspen Choral Society may have 38 years of practice tackling George Handel’s “Messiah,” but music director Paul Dankers still sees room for improvement.
“When you’ve got a group of people that’s been singing for this long, it gives you the luxury of dealing in things that most directors don’t have time for,” Dankers said.
It’s the third year conducting for Dankers, who holds a master’s in vocal music education and serves as music director at Snowmass Chapel, and things are beginning to really click.
“It’s basically taken this time for me to gain their trust, and for them to sort of understand my style,” he said. “I’ve tried very hard never to say the way it was done before was wrong, because it’s not. It’s different.”
Specifically, Dankers has been working on what he calls “the blend.”
“Consonants are like the spice that’s thrown into the dish, but the meat and potatoes are the vowels. Everybody has a different sound and shape to their vowels, so you have to spend a lot of time unifying them in order to get them to blend,” he said.
It’s a tedious process, but the singers have taken to it eagerly.
“What I’ve discovered is that the choir really likes to be challenged,” Dankers said. “The more I give them, the happier they are.”
While the spring concert gives the singers an opportunity to broaden their horizons, “Messiah” is a chance to strive for perfection.
“It’s the piece people expect. It’s a tradition. We get more singers, and we get more attendance,” Dankers said. “When you join yourselves together like that, there is something that could be called spiritual. You can’t count on it, but it happened last year in Glenwood.”
Although it was written decades before the Declaration of Independence, the piece — particularly the hallelujah chorus — remains recognizable and, Dankers thinks, comparatively accessible.
“Baroque music is a long way off for our modern ears, but I think “Messiah” stands as an example of some of the highest work that we’re capable of achieving. You have over 100 people in this valley giving their time and talent to be part of a greater whole,” he said. “I feel like we need something that defines us as noble, as artistic, as having a higher self. It shows that we are capable of something greater than what we see on the news.”
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