Not going to find this DIY on Pinterest
The DIY Messiah is different than other Messiah performances you’ve probably been to or heard before. You actually get to sing the Messiah yourself. Well, not all of it. The idea of the show is for the audience to sing the chorus while they also have professional opera singers for the solos in the piece. This show is great for anyone who knows the Messiah really well and has always really wanted to sing it - now’s your chance.
However if you’re like me and have had limited experience with the Messiah, save for that one performance you saw years ago, you’ll still have a good time. The concerto composed by Handel is a musical rendition of the story of Jesus Christ from the King Jame’s Bible. It tells the story of the Nativity, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension. The show is bring-your-own-music so you’ll be able to sing along. But if you don’t have a copy of the Messiah on hand (like me), you can purchase a score at the theater.
It’s hard not to be intimidated by the others who brought their own well-worn copy of the music. Some of them might have been coming to the show for 30+ years. Luckily, there is about a fifteen minute rehearsal at the beginning before the performance starts. You’ll get to practice singing a few of the choral pieces and then it’s off we go!
Buckle in Your Seatbelts
Now get ready for the show because you’re in for the full three hours of this event. The DIY Messiah consists of all three parts, only omitting a few songs. The audience is arranged by voice part, sopranos, altos, tenors, and bass. But don’t worry if you came with a group of friends or your family. Most of the seating is general seating, so you can sneak your bass friend over to the soprano section if you really wanted to.
The one thing that might be a downside to some is it’s hard to be a spectator in this. Since you’re sitting by voice part, you don’t really get the full effect of the show. You can only hear the voices around you and not the entire concert.
Bring on the Hallelujah Chorus
Overall, it’s a fun and upbeat atmosphere. It seemed like everyone in the audience was wearing their red or green holiday sweater and were ready to sing. The maestro, Stanley Sperber, was a great personality leading this show. It’s not his first rodeo as this show marks his 16th year conducting. He did an introduction to get the crowd settled in. There were some one liners with the tenors as the punch line as well as a vocal warm up of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
In addition to that fun tribute to the Cubs, the audience also enjoyed singing ”And We like Sheep Have Gone Astray” and of course, the Hallelujah Chorus. The other standout artist of the night was the countertenor, Ryan Belongie. He was singing the alto solos and was absolutely fantastic. I’ve never heard a countertenor live before, but his voice was phenomenal and he carried the solos wonderfully.
The DIY Messiah really is a community event. My advice to make the most of this event is to sit somewhere in the middle of your section if you’re new. You’ll be surrounded by your voice part and might feel more confident if you haven’t sung this before. This show is recommended for those who want to actively sing the Messiah, but not so much if you’d rather sit back and listen.
December 20th and 21st.
The Harris Theater
205 E Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
$10 for a score at the theater.
Not recommended for children under the age of six.
Photos courtesy of the International Music Foundation