The Messiah

I played the French horn in Ben Horch’s Mennonite Community Orchestra every time he scheduled a performance, which was annually for about a decade after World War II.

The climax is, of course, the “Hallelujah Chorus.” At the end, the horn plays 12 bars the same – dan- tada-dan-ta – over and over. The choir and orchestra stop suddenly at the end of that phrase for a poignant moment of silence before the final chord.

We were at dress rehearsal. It was a long evening because Maestro had decided to perform all the music, including recitatives, arias, duets and quartettes, and choruses. We were nearing the end.

He raised his baton to begin the Hallelujah Chorus. The sopranos, altos, tenors and basses all sing at the top of their voices.

We came to the final phrase. I forgot to count out my 12 bars and played an extra
dan-tada-dan-ta into the silence. He should have thrown his baton at me, but Mr. Horch just bent his head back and laughed out loud, then continued conducting us through the climactic ending.

Performance took place the next day, a Sunday afternoon in the old Winnipeg Auditorium, now the Archives Building.

All went well, but when we got to the chorus, Maestro glared at me.

I was afraid of making the same mistake twice, so I did not play my 12 bars.

Of all the masses and requiems composed by famous musicians, my favourite is “The Messiah”.

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