A presentation Handel would have been proud of… | Sunday Observer

A presentation Handel would have been proud of…

Handel’s Messiah, Parts 2 and 3
St Mary’s Church, Bambalapitiya,
Thursday May 10
Performed by the Oktave and Friends
Conducted by Dr Lalanath de Silva

Handel’s Messiah is one of the most widely performed and popular pieces of classical music in the world. Even if you don’t know Handel’s Messiah you will recognize some of the music from it. The Hallelujah Chorus has firmly established itself as one of the most widely-recognized pieces of classical music of all time and has found its way into popular culture all over the world, from movies to Bugs Bunny cartoons to musical fountains in Dubai and Las Vegas!

Performances of the Messiah are a regular part of pre-Christmas festivities all around the world. However, in Sri Lanka, performances have been a rare occurrence. But, this wonderful music has now had its own resurrection in Sri Lanka. Just before Christmas, Oktave and friends performed Part 1 of the Messiah, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus. Then, last Thursday, for a very appreciative audience, Oktave and Friends completed their performance of the Messiah, performing Parts 2 and 3, the story of the crucifixion and resurrection.

This was a performance Handel would have recognized and been proud of. With a choir of 20 voices, a small chamber orchestra, harpsichord and double bass continuo, organ, and four soloist singers, this was a performance very much in the spirit and scale of the very first performance of the Messiah in April 1742.

Under the direction of Dr Lalanath de Silva, the performance was energetic and dramatic. His choice and control of tempi and dynamics was insightful and the performers, without exception, responded magnificently.

Each of the soloists excelled. Laknath Seneviratne (baritone) and Trevis de Silva (tenor) sang their demanding solos with ease. And the wonderful performances of both Peshali Yapa (mezzo soprano) and Anagi Perera (soprano) truly lifted this performance of the Messiah above the ordinary. From her first aria “He was despised” to her duet “O death, where is thy sting”, Peshali Yapa was commanding, mesmerizing and assured. Anagi Perera has a beautifully pure and lyrical soprano voice and her performance of “I know that my Redeemer liveth” was a highlight of the evening. The choir was well rehearsed, well balanced and very secure in their performance of the many demanding choruses. The chamber orchestra and continuo players gave performances worthy of professional musicians. The conductor, Dr Lalanath de Silva, was outstanding, shaping a performance of the Messiah that turned into a celebration of a great musical work. Though the Messiah has not been performed in Sri Lanka for many, when Dr de Silva invited members of the audience to join the choir in singing the Hallelujah Chorus as an encore, many from the audience knew the music and went up to join the choir in what was a rousing encore and a fitting conclusion to a wonderful performance of a great piece of music.

- Tim Sutton