If you were one of the unfortunate people who did not make it out to St. Anne’s Church last night for Windsor Classic Choral’s performance of Messiah, you missed what will no doubt be one of the premiere events for the arts in Windsor Essex for 2008. It was tremendous.
Under the direction of this parish’s own Timothy Shantz, the WSO and the Classic Chorale were magnificent. I was only once to a performance of Messiah but it was in Advent, when it so often is nowadays, and it did not include the entire composition. Handel wrote Messiah and it was first performed for Lent. Part I of the composition is very full of Advent imagery and it has thus become very popular that that time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Part II is such a wonderful retelling of the Passion and of course the Hallelujah Chorus proclaims Resurrection!
There is something really profound about the power of music. Handel once said, “Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows.” Those words came to mind last evening as I watched Tim conduct. It was amazing. At several points during parts II and III it seems as if Tim was having one of “those” experiences. He was so consumed by the music that it was hard to tell if he was in his body or out of his body. Two places in particular come to mind. I was fascinated at how utterly connected he was to the choristers and the musicians during the Hallelujah chorus and the final chorus “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” It was clear that every fibre of Tim Shantz’s being was immersed in that music and the result was sheer mastery. In Celtic Spirituality, there is a notion of the “thin place” and the “thin moments.” Those are the places and spaces in time when there is little between this world and the other world for us. Tim looked to be in a “thin moment” last night. I felt the moment a little thin myself, but seeing him conduct with such passion and excitement it is hard to imagine that he was not taken to a very sacred space. Equally as impressive was the joy in Katy’s face. Katy Warke is Tim’s wife and she is a soprano in the Windsor Classic Chorale. She too was so full of joy for the music that she was singing. Watching them both so in love with what they do was a tremendous gift. I offer my thanks to Tim and Katy and to their families for your great giftedness and for including us last night. It was tremendous!
I could not think of a better way to begin Holy Week! We are reminded of the words, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” Those words from Isaiah, included in Part II of the Messiah, are a summation of Holy Week. We acknowledge this week that God paid it all for us and that in doing so, God has gifted us with a grace to be present to each other and to seek out the divine in all persons. As we move closer to the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday, may we be reminded of God in the special places like music and the arts and oddly enough – in each other!