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For the 60th year in a row, the Greensboro Oratorio Singers invited friends, family, and strangers alike to hear Handel's Messiah, conducted by Jay O. Lambeth. War Memorial Auditorium was the perfect place for such a performance: the hall is beautiful and has wonderful acoustics. The crowd was of a substantial size and covered a wide spectrum of ages.
The stage curtains were closed as the audience was being seated and the orchestra was tuning, but as soon as the orchestra began the beautiful overture, the curtains opened to reveal a huge choir, all in white and black. I had never experienced that type of choral "entrance" before, and it was quite effective; their white shirts were resplendent, and the singers looked a bit like angels.
The orchestra was very well rehearsed and very tight. It was a fairly good-sized orchestra with 21 instrumentalists in all. The balance between the choir and orchestra was good, but the orchestra seemed too loud for the soloists at times, especially the tenor, David Holley. He had a lovely voice that carried well, but it was difficult to hear him when he dipped into his lower register. The other soloists, soprano Carla LeFevre, mezzo-soprano Mary Gayle Greene, and baritone Scott MacLeod were all lovely singers and added much to the overall effect of the oratorio.
There were a few highlights of this performance. The aria in the first section entitled "The People That Walked In Darkness," sung by MacLeod, was lovely. It was sung with such feeling and emotion. The alto and tenor duet, sung by Greene and Holley, was quite beautiful as well. Their voices blended beautifully and filled the hall with rich, warm vibrancy. And finally, the "Hallelujah!" Chorus at the end of the section was one of the most moving moments of the entire performance. As tradition dictates, the entire audience stood, and the applause following its completion was resounding.
There was one little aspect of the performance that I had never experienced before. After the chorus "Glory To God" in the first section, the performance was stopped and news reporter Julie Luck (WFMY) spoke for a few minutes as donation buckets were passed around. I had never before seen a performance stopped in the middle for a collection.
This was one of the better performances of the Messiah I have ever had the privilege to attend. If you missed this performance, don't fret! They will be performing it again next year, for the 61st time.