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Hallelujah! Mormon Tabernacle Choir celebrates Easter with a powerful ‘Messiah’

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square will present Handel's "Messiah" in the Tabernacle, Friday, April 18, 2014. This is the event that "sold out" of free tickets in 7.5 minutes.

By Catherine Reese Newton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 19 2014 11:02PM
Updated Apr 21, 2014 11:06AM

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir served a musical feast on Easter weekend: Handel’s "Messiah" in all its unabridged glory.

Music director Mack Wilberg prepared a new edition of the venerable oratorio for the occasion. This was necessary to allow his 360-voice choir and large orchestra of mostly strings to sound more light and nimble, in keeping with current performance trends.

It’s quite a feat for such a formidable ensemble to achieve the transparency of a chamber choir, and for the most part, Wilberg and his singers pulled it off.

Not that they held back all evening. Some of the choruses, such as the grand "Hallelujah" and the closing "Worthy is the Lamb," call for a display of choral firepower, and the Tabernacle Choir delivered as only the Tabernacle Choir can. The singers, who are preparing for a recording of the oratorio, were well-rehearsed. Throughout the evening, their vocal projection was forceful, their enunciation crisp and punchy.

It wasn’t a perfect performance; ensemble between choir and orchestra was precarious at times, and the orchestra’s reading of the "Pastoral Symphony" could have been warmer.

But those were small quibbles in a rousing performance that brought Saturday’s unusually well-behaved audience to its feet cheering.

A fine quartet of well-matched soloists handled the arias and recitatives with polish. Soprano Melissa Heath brought sweetness and freshness to her narration of the Nativity and to beloved arias such as "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Mezzo Tamara Mumford sang with a beautifully rounded tone and lent authority to the "refiner’s fire" section of "But who may abide the day of his coming?"

Tenor Brian Stucki offered stylish yet tasteful ornamentation and gave an especially heart-rending performance of "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow." Bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen sang with power and flexibility; his immaculate melismas were a pleasure to hear.

If you missed this weekend’s concerts, or just wish to relive them, Friday’s performance is available on the choir’s YouTube channel through Monday night.

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