After Carnegie Hall ‘Messiah’ performance, Aspen Choral Society returns for three local concerts
IF YOU GO …
What: Aspen Choral Society performs Handel’s ‘Messiah’
Where: Grace Church, Basalt; Wheeler Opera House, Aspen; St. Stephen’s, Glenwood Springs
When: Friday, Dec. 14 (Basalt); Saturday, Dec. 15 (Aspen); Sunday, Dec. 16 (Glenwood). All performances 7 p.m.
Tickets and more info: aspenchoralsociety.org
Ascending the risers for a dress rehearsal of Handel’s “Messiah” over Thanksgiving weekend, Paul Dankers kept his eyes down. He focused on following the singer in front of him, not tripping up the steps and holding on to his binder of sheet music.
But then Dankers reminded himself this wasn’t just any “Messiah” run-through.
“I thought to myself, ‘You’re on stage at Carnegie Hall, why don’t you look around?’” Dankers, music director of the Aspen Choral Society, recalled with a laugh. “It was an inspiring moment to look over all those seats and realize what that stage means musically to the world. So many fantastic performers have graced that stage and to be numbered among them is such a privilege.”
Hours later, Dankers and three-dozen of his fellow local choir members performed the Christmas classic for a sold-out crowd of 2,800 in the legendary Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall.
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“That was like, ‘OK, I have to bring my A-game because there are a lot of people here,’” Dankers said.
The choral society was one of 18 choirs from around the world selected by Distinguished Concerts International New York to join forces for the eighth annual “Messiah…Refreshed” concert. The one-day performance featured a 250-voice choir and full symphony on America’s most storied stage.
The New York Concert Review reported that the choir’s rendition of the piece’s “Hallelujah” chorus inspired a roaring standing ovation that ran for several minutes. The review called the concert “an afternoon that not only was musically fulfilling, but spiritually uplifting.”
After the tremendous honor of performing at Carnegie Hall, the choral society is coming home for its 41st annual local performance of “Messiah.” The choir will tour the Roaring Fork Valley on Dec. 14-16 with concerts in at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and churches in Basalt and Glenwood Springs.
The Carnegie concert raised the national profile of the local choir and rewarded its dedicated singers, some of whom have been in its ranks for all four decades. But, Dankers noted, the anonymity of performing in such a huge group for a massive crowd also made him long for home.
“As grand and amazing as that was, I would rather feel that tight connection between us as musicians as we stand up there together,” he said. “There is such a tangible connection in a small town like this — the intimacy of this, performing music you’ve prepared together over years and months.”
Before the Carnegie Hall performance, the “Messiah…Refreshed” singers — with choirs from across the U.S. and Canada, South Africa, Qatar and Hong Kong — rehearsed for two intense days in New York with conductor Jonathan Griffith. For the local concerts, the Aspen Choral Society spends months in preparations that are undergirded by decades of standing side-by-side and bringing Handel’s majestic composition to life together.
The grand spectacle of a sold-out Carnegie Hall may signal the pinnacle of musical achievement. But there’s no place like home.
“I don’t think it can compare to what we can achieve when you have that tight of a bond together,” Dankers said. “There’s no replacing that.”
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