There was so much to see and do in New York that coming back home to South Bend might have been a let down. However, this weekend has been one of delight and learning--all centered around Mendelssohn's Elijah performed at Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center with Nathan Gunn in the role of Elijah.
We had been working on Elijah in Repertory Choir with students conducting under the demanding but kindly guidance of Professor Carmen Tellez. So I had sung many of the choruses, some familiar (Cast Your Burden Upon the Lord, He Watching Over Israel), and some less so (He That Shall Endure to the End). I probably could have sung in the performance but was not eager to spend the extra hours in rehearsal and wasn't sure I'd have the stamina to stand on stage at length.
Thursday evening Professor Jeffrey Sposato from the University of Houston spoke on Elijah and Mendelssohn's "Jewishness." Many years later the Nazis considered him to be a Jewish composer and rejected his works; however, his family converted to Lutheranism when he was seven years old. Sposato compared the events from Elijah's life chosen to correspond to events from Christ's life. The lecture was very interesting and made me more aware of the process of putting together such an oratorio. After the lecture, Carmen Tellez and Nathan Gunn joined Sposato to answer questions about the work and their own interpretations.
This afternoon was the performance. After looking forward to it for so long, I almost missed it by assuming the concert was at 7 pm. I checked the tickets after church and the time was 2 pm! I would have been heart-broken!
The performance was spell-binding. Nathan Gunn's voice is so powerful and expressive. The young soloists that I know from the choir made me feel a great pride in their offerings--Josh as the counter-tenor angel, Sarah and Jamie as angels, Ben as Ahab. Carmen was amazing--to have the energy and concentration to conduct for the better part of three hours--and to get such wonderful results from an amateur orchestra and chorus--even if many of them are very good musicians.
Good things happen in South Bend too!