The Cape Fear Chorale invites the community to a free performance of sections of Handel's Messiah, Sunday, November 19 at 4:00 at Kenan Auditorium. It's not just a performance-the audience is encouraged to sing along with the Choir. Director Jerry Cribbs will help everyone stay together.
Rachelle Dries and Rob Williams from the Chorale spoke with us; listen above and see an extended transcript below.
If you don't have a copy of the score, you can purchase a copy at the event for $15.
Rachelle: I started singing with the Cape Fear Chorale five years ago. I actually have a musical background. I was a violinist before I started singing, but I've been singing all my life. And I have a master's degree in Musicology from Florida State. So music is just kind of part of me.
Gina: Rob what is your relationship with the Cape Fear Chorale?
Rob: So I am a tenor, first tenor. Usually. When we have divisions. And I have sung in the Chorale since, I believe, 2002.
Gina: That's a long time.
Rob: It is. The years have flown by.
Gina: How was the Cape Fear Chorale founded? Did the group start out as a church choir?
Rob: Well as a former board member I guess I'll take that one. My understanding of the history is that the current iteration of Cape Fear Chorale started in 1998 when our current music director, Jerry Cribbs, decided he wanted to start a local singing group. I think we've always had at least one in Wilmington for quite some time, but Jerry wanted to start another. And apparently the name Cape Fear Chorale has been around a while. There's been a couple of other instances where that name had been used for other groups in the past, so Jerry decided to continue that. So if I had to guess, I think what he- Jerry- drew from probably many of his church choir members to start the group and then also with him having been a teacher, a music teacher, in Wilmington for quite some time, he probably grabbed some former students as well.
Gina: It sounds like the music you perform varies a lot from religious, jazz, holiday, show music, musical choir, classical pop rock. Does the Cape Fear Chorale have a favorite genre?
Rachelle: A favorite genre I think would be hard to come by with a group of over 60 performers. I really feel like, as far as directorship, Jerry really wants to bring a wide variety of choral music to Wilmington and really expose the community to something bigger than just the term classical music so that people really can understand that there's a huge plethora of music available for choral performances.
Gina: What's your favorite genre?
Rachelle: Oh I love the Baroque era, so pretty much anything choral out of the Baroque era is my preference.
Gina: And what about you, Rob?
Rob: Well, she kind of stole my answer. I do like the older classical stuff and Baroque is obviously great, and of course the classical period has a bunch of wonderful composers as well.
Gina:What part or parts of The Messiah do you really love?
Rob: So my favorite chorus of the Messiah is Since by Man Came Death. And I think what I like about that so much is there's quite a contrast in the mood within that one within that one section. So there's a there's a section talking about man is destined to die and then it goes from being quite somber sounding to being excited, because there is also the resurrection and therefore we are all saved. So I like the fact that there's a big contrast and it's only, I think probably maybe two or three minutes long. I kind of enjoy that.
Rachelle: I think I'll take that from a perspective of looking at the entire work. One of the things that I really enjoy about Handel’s work, especially his oratorio, is his text painting. Which is basically making the music say or emphasize what the text says in the piece. And Messiah is an excellent example of what a master Handel was at that. So I really enjoy that particular element interspersed throughout the entire work.
Gina: So if you were going to tell someone, OK this is what text painting is like, what would be a really strong example of that do you think?
Rachelle: Okay, so an easy example to think of, maybe not for Messiah, is let's say the composer was writing some music based on the words "the sun rises." The the imagery is the sun rises, the sun goes up. Well the pitch that maybe the composer would use would go up the scale to say the sun rises. Gina: Right. Rachelle: That's probably a, that's a very simple version. There's so many harmonic elements that can provide text painting as well. In the aria that I have a solo in, he has an element where the word is "peace" and it goes from a very dissonant chord to a consonant chord which emphasizes the word peace.
Gina: So things going from disorder to tranquility.
Gina: Oh, that's lovely.
Rachelle: It's actually a duet. And my part is Come Unto Him. It's He Shall Feed His Flock and Come Unto Him.
Gina: For people who've never heard about the Messiah, Handel's Messiah, What is it about?
Rachelle: Messiah is an oratoria, which is a choral form from the Boroque era where it tells usually a religious story. Messiah is a little different in that, typically in oratoria will be a dramatic work or kind of like a play to music, similar to opera only with a sacred theme. Messiah is a little different because it basically covers Christian theology. It does a little bit about the birth of Jesus, the prophecies and the birth of Jesus, and a little bit about the death of Jesus, and then the third section basically deals with Christian theology in general. And although it's very dramatic in its presentation, it doesn't particularly tell a single story like some others Handels some of Handel's other oratorios would like Judas Maccabeus that he wrote that tells the story of that particular character.
Gina: Is this a free performance?
Rob: So Cape Fear Chorale has always held it to be important that we provide free concerts to anyone who would like to attend. So we do not charge an admission. We do graciously accept any donations from folks who attend the concert. It's not a requirement. And we also receive donations throughout the year from people in the community as well. That actually brings up a great point that we wanted to share as well, is that for this particular Messiah concert, 10 percent of all donations we receive at the at the concert itself will be donated to a particular charity.
Rachelle: It's the United Methodist Committee on Relief and it will be specifically earmarked to go to hurricane relief Florida.
Gina: And this is also a Sing-Along?
Rachelle: It is.
Rob: That's true.
Gina: So even people like me could come and sing?
Rachelle: Absolutely. And I'm really excited about that opportunity because it gives Wilmington, the community, a chance to participate in something that doesn't happen very often. You get to come in and sing for free with an orchestra. Very exciting. And the chorale actually will have a limited number of scores available for purchase. If you don't have a Messiah score you can walk in, purchase a score for $15, find a seat in the auditorium, and sing along.
Gina: Are you doing the whole thing?
Rachelle: No. It's very long. There's three parts. And Jerry has selected some I think of his favorite choruses, the choruses I think that people in general like to hear as well as a couple that are a little bit obscure that aren't typically performed. So that's really an exciting element for the Chorale too, to get to sing some music that's not typically performed at the usual kind of Christmasy performances of Messiah.