Some tickets still available for 5 p.m. performance
By Alison Rooney
This Sunday’s two performances of Handel’s Messiah will, as with last year’s, feature a panoply of professional, New York City–based musicians and singers, most with many performances of the oratorio under their belts, along with a contingent of local singers.
For a few of those local singers, last year’s performances were their first times at bat in this epic and challenging work. Philipstown’s Terry Platz sang last year, and though she was not among those performing the piece for the first time, it was still like nothing she had ever done before. Platz, who will be returning to sing in both performances on Dec. 21, called last year’s concerts “a culmination of my whole life’s love of music … truly one of the most magical experiences of my career.”
Having performed Messiah many times previously in, among other places, “group sings at Lincoln Center with people screaming their lungs out,” Platz in this Messiah was “piqued by the use of period instruments.” Her love for the work is formed by feeling “a part of it. There’s the history aspect of it — you’re singing something that people for centuries have sung. It’s transcendent and overwhelming. Some phrases are so overwhelmingly beautiful it’s hard to get through them.”
Platz, a member of Philipstown’s homegrown MotherLode Trio as well as a member of the St. Philip’s Church choir, grew up in a very musical family — her father, “a jingles producer, used to arrange quartets for my family of four to sing.” After attending St. Olaf College, with its renowned music program, Platz had a career as a professional singer, working in recording studios singing backup and jingles, but she “never took the path of [becoming a] ‘legitimate’ musician — which most of this group was.”
Being able to read music well, she devoted time to studying the score, and although it was familiar to her, in this and last year’s edition, “there were many selections I have never sung before — the lesser-known sections. Though I never learned to play piano well enough to play it through, I was able to plunk out a few notes and practice, practice. There are online methods, too, and of course you can listen to YouTube, doing it over and over again.”
Still, even assiduous preparation was not complete training for the “scary tempos” of the actual performances. “My vocal chords were challenged by the speed,” Platz recalled. But the terror was matched by exhilaration. “To watch Rachel [Evans, the concert master] was like watching a wave — you had to be so tuned in. And Rachel was so in sync with Gordon [Stewart, the conductor]. It was so exciting to watch the movement of the musicians.”
This year’s performances will be much altered by the absence of Stewart, who passed away just before Thanksgiving. Having planned for these performances to take place regardless of whether he would be around to guide them, Stewart requested that an empty podium represent him.
“The symbolic, empty podium will be a major challenge,” Platz said, “but we’ll have to tune in even that much more because of it, and Rachel was the pulse last year, as she will be this year.”
Stewart will be much missed, though. “It was impossible not to be inspired by his story last year,” Platz related. “He told us the story of his father emigrating from Scotland to this country without a penny in his pocket, but with a Messiah score tucked under his arm … Gordon couldn’t have completed his life without doing this. As a singer, watching him conduct was like looking into his soul.”
Messiah will be performed at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring at 2 and 5 p.m. Dec. 21. At press time, a few seats were still available (both of last year’s concerts sold out), and tickets, which cost $20, are available at brownpapertickets.com or at the door.