Handel’s Messiah is the piece of music I’ve sung more than any other.
Choose Something Like a Star from Frostiana
Randall Thompson (1899-1984)
University of Illinois Chamber Singers | Andrew Megill, conductor
I want to talk a little bit about choir. I’ve been singing in choirs since the seventh grade.
I was in a choir every year from junior high through college. During my first year in college, I was in the male chorale, a small group within the male chorale, a madrigal group, and opera workshop.
'Hallelujah Chorus' from Handel's Messiah
Royal Choral Society, Royal Albert Hall, 2012
After college, I became a paid section leader in church choirs around San Diego County. In December of 1999, I became a member of the San Diego Opera Chorus.
All told, I’ve been in choirs for over 30 years. With that in mind, here are my top five “sings."
Gounod: Faust - Choir; "Vin ou biére,..."
Introduction choir from II.Act, Wiener Staatsoper, conductor: Erich Binder, 1985
For the record, I would rather go sing in a choir rehearsal than go listen to a choir concert. Most of my most cherished moments have been in rehearsals. The value of singing in a choir is not dependent on an audience witnessing the music.
Lohengrin_Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan
Cheryl Studer as Elsa, Paul Frey as Lohengrin,
Peter Schneider conducting the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Several pieces have held a top spot for me over the years. For a while, I was infatuated with an "Ave Maria" by Franz Biebl. Mozart’s Requiem was my official favorite piece of music for a decade or more. Every single piece of Russian choral music I’ve ever sung has been a mystical experience.
From Act 3 of Britten's Peter Grimes
With Colin Davis conducting the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Number five is "Choose Something Like a Star" by Randall Thomspon. Thompson set several Robert Frost poems in a group of compositions entitled Frostiana. "The Road not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" are by far the most popular poems included in Frostiana but "Choose Something Like a Star" is my favorite.
Messa di Requiem - Verdi
Leontyne Price. Herbert von Karajan conducts in a concert from 1967.
Number four is Handel’s Messiah. It’s no surprise that this is the piece of music I’ve sung more than any other. It’s possible to sing the Messiah at least once per non-Covid year in sing-alongs around the county during the Christmas season.
The third piece is an opera. Charles Gounod’s Faust has it all. The chorus gets to dance with the devil, reverently mourn the death of Valentin, and join the celestial chorus.
Number two is two operas that are tied. I’ve been in over 60 opera productions with the San Diego Opera Chorus and there are at least 25 different operas that could be on this list. I find two operas to be extreme in their choral appeal. The first is Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin and the second is Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes.
The number one piece of music, for me, is Verdi’s Requiem. When it comes to depth of expression, level of intensity, and sheer volume, nothing beats Verdi’s Requiem.