My first memory of The Messiah was attending a performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I must have been about eight or nine and my best friend's much older sister had the trumpet solo in "The Trumpet Shall Sound." I was so proud of knowing her and, for some strange reason, her comment afterwards saying that her lips felt like hamburger meat is a part of my memory.
When I was 18 and a freshman in college, I sang The Messiah with the Calvin College Oratorio Society. Conductor Seymour Swets told us young altos that we needed to sound like 40 year old mothers on "And the Glory of the Lord" on our solo entrance. We knew what he meant--that he wanted a rich, dark sound, but we mostly weren't there yet! I will never forget his beaming face as we finished the last Amen in our December performance.
Many years later, maybe 20 years later, Jim and I went to a performance of The Messiah in Duke Chapel. I focused on a young alto singing at the end of a row. I got tearful thinking how much living had taken place since I first sang those choruses--good and bad--and how much was ahead of that young girl.
I am singing The Messiah again and it is a joy. The Notre Dame Repertory Choir, a class that meets twice a week, is giving the student conductors a chance to practice their skills on these choruses. I have no trouble coming up with a more mature sound now! I still can't sing those long eighth note passages especially at the pace we are practicing. The style seems to be a faster tempo and a more staccato style. That's a challenge that is fine with me.
Music evokes memories and these are happy ones coming back to me.