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How to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s ‘Messiah’ without a ticket

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Tribune file photo And you thought tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concerts were hard to get.

By Catherine Reese Newton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 12 2014 01:01AM
Updated Apr 21, 2014 11:06AM

And you thought the Christmas concerts were a hot ticket.

Tickets to a pair of Mormon Tabernacle Choir performances of Handel’s "Messiah" were snapped up within 7 ½ minutes of becoming available last month.

If you weren’t among the lucky 5,600 or so who got tickets, there are other ways to experience the concerts, which will be the choir’s first performances of the complete oratorio in recent memory. Thursday’s regular 7 p.m. rehearsal in the Tabernacle will be open to the public, as will a Tuesday rehearsal. Overflow seating with live broadcast will be available in two nearby venues (see accompanying box). And Friday’s performance will be streamed live, then available on demand through Easter weekend. In addition, the choir will release a recording early next year. Some of the oratorio’s choruses already have been recorded. The work’s concluding chorus, "Worthy Is the Lamb That Was Slain," is featured on the choir’s latest CD.

Moving the event to the much-larger Conference Center was never an option, said general manager Scott Barrick. "A, it’s not the right venue, and B, [the concerts are] part of the choir’s preparation for the recording." He added that the overflow seating will accommodate a roughly equivalent number of concertgoers as would another night in the Tabernacle.

The choir’s music director, Mack Wilberg, said he’s been thinking about presenting "Messiah" for several years. "It’s closely aligned with who we are and fits in nicely with our mandate and mission," he said. The conductor believes this recording brings "something unique" to the current market. Large-scale performances of "Messiah," which became the norm about 40 years after the oratorio’s 1742 premiere and continued in vogue for two centuries, are harder to find nowadays.

"Twenty to 25 voices, no matter how wonderful and pristine, cannot bring that visceral power" that a choir of 360 can, he said.

Preparing the oratorio for performance required Wilberg to prepare a new edition of the score. "I’ve tried to infuse as much modern musical scholarship as I can; the tempi are a little brisker than what people might have heard in the past," he said, pointing out that he has not rearranged Handel’s music, but made adjustments in orchestration, note values and breath markings. "I had to study every note, vocal and instrumental, and make decisions about probably everything," he said. "It brought me a renewed appreciation for the piece. It’s a really remarkable piece."

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