First ‘Messiah’ performance of season is tonight in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Four years ago, when Ray Vincent Adams was conducting Handel’s “Messiah,” he was in so much pain he could hardly stand. A little more than a day later, he was in major back surgery.
“Ha, so what’s a little pneumonia?” he joked. “Nothing.”
This year, despite the fact that one of his lungs is filled with liquid, he’ll be on-stage with the Aspen Choral Society’s annual Christmas show. That’s just how strong his “Messiah” love is.
And though he’s been heading it for 31 years straight, he insists he’s not tired of it one bit.
Every season, when he leafs through the piece, it’s as though he sees an old friend, he explained. It speaks to him.
“Hello Ray, let’s make some music,” he imagines it saying.
He’s not about to let that friend down ” not to mention his choir, audience and orchestra. Nor himself.
“This tradition, I think, helps provide some glue and some continuity to all of us here,” he said.
While Handel’s full piece covers Jesus’ entire life, through the crucifixion and resurrection, Adams’ concerts have always focused on the birth. It’s the hope of that section that screams the holidays to him. An oratorio, it does include symphony pieces, as well as moments for soloists, but it’s the chorus that Adams is most impressed by. A combined group, it’s actually made up of two choirs, one from Glenwood and one from Aspen, totaling about 120 people. Each year, as they gear up for Handel, they practice separately for months before finally coming together just days before opening night. In Adams’ words, it’s the singers’ dedication that makes his commute up and down the valley “worth every mile.”
“I’m doing this for the choir,” he said, “always for the choir.”
Together, he knows they’re bringing something upbeat to this little valley. When he looks around here, he sees a lot of changes, a lot alienation. There’s angst between upvalley and downvalley folks, strife about the direction the whole place is heading. “Messiah,” however, transcends that. This “beautiful tradition,” as he calls it, brings people together in a way that’s not about class or race or politics.
“All I know is that it’s a positive piece with positive vibrations, and it’s positive for everyone that attends,” he said.
What with the economy and two wars at the back of everyone’s mind, he’s happy to put that kind of thing into the world. But he’s also realistic about the show’s effect. This is no “answer,” he stressed. This is no cure. It’s simply a little help for folks during a time most really need it.
“I make a difference in this valley. I don’t know how much,” he said, honestly. “I don’t know how much it counts for.”
There’s no disputing the following the shows have, though. Each year, he does a few nights in Glenwood and a few nights in Aspen, and every time, they bring in swarms of people. He tries to mix the piece up a bit each season (parts of this year’s show, for example, will “knock you back in your seat,” he said), yet the ingredients are always the same. The story never changes. Still, people flock to it.
He’s not the only one blown away by that fact.
“All you have to do is look at the choir during the concerts and look at the grins on their faces,” he said. “They know they’re doing something incredible for their community.”
When it comes to the inevitable question how much longer his Handel run will continue, Adams’ response was unbending. Until people tell him they’re bored of it, until it’s been played out, he knows he’ll keep at “Messiah” ” until he dies.
“I’d never thought I’d be this lucky,” he said. “It’s the best job ever.”
So, really, what’s a little pneumonia?
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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