Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Too Hot to Handel, Year 5 [Stories from the Choir Part 2]

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By Althea L. Ward-Curtis

Welcome to my story of my history with Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah. This is the fifth year that I have been a choir member with this diverse volunteer group. Five years!? It hardly seems that much time has passed.

Five years ago I received an unsolicited invitation from the Auditorium Theatre to audition for an upcoming performance called Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah. I was flattered that someone must have heard my melodic vocalizing while I was pumping gas, or perhaps as I was walking my dog, or maybe it was all of those years singing under the direction of Herman Spier (miss you and Anne, man!!) who held a position at the Music Conservatory that had got me this lucky (but well deserved, of course), audition break. Whatever the reason (it wasn't Herman), whomever the connection, my name was located, an email was sent, and I was invited to audition for a performance that would be delivered from the world renowned stage of the Auditorium. My big break was finally about to become a reality!! Who could possibly have known that I belonged on stage? I couldn't respond quickly enough to confirm my desire to audition and participate in a musically diverse performance of the Messiah.

I auditioned. Then, self-doubt arose and I thought maybe they had me confused with another Althea and that she showed up and pretended to be me and...

I sat in front of my email, refusing to work, sleep, eat or drink with my hand positioned on the phone in case the good news be delivered via a faceless voice in my ear. I left a note on the mailbox inviting the mailman to walk right in and place the results of my Auditorium audition in my free hand in the event that it came by mail. I was determined to receive my good news fresh from the sender with no lapse in time. I had considered camping out at the audition location, or at the Auditorium, but decided that unless I sang while waiting, they wouldn't know it was me and my answer would be sent to my home anyway. My decision to stay home was the right choice, and my waiting in the aforementioned state was rewarded with the official invitation to accept the role of volunteer choir member in the THTH Choir. YAHOOO!!! This was a "BIG TO DO". It was going to be me "LIVE from Congress Parkway" singing Handel with variation!

I was completely thrilled, told everyone I knew and threw myself into learning the music. Five years ago.

I have auditioned every year since then and pray my voice remains an asset to this moving, exciting, fun composition. The people that I invited the very first year I performed with this choir have been audience members ever since. They tell their friends, who tell their friends know the rest. This performance continues to be a source of pure joy for those that experience it, whether as an audience member or as choir member. I have been tempted to become an audience participant, but I just love singing it too much.

Next year when I audition, I will look for you, dear reader, to join me in learning and performing this version of the Messiah. It is a piece that creates harmony, not only in its natural musical form, but also in the hearts of those that attend and participate in the performances. It is pure delight. I cannot thank the unknown connection enough for bringing this music into my life five years ago. Thank you Auditorium Theatre for listening to that unknown connection and offering an audition invitation to this woman to be a part of harmony beyond measure.

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