My mother had a Christmas tradition . . . she loved to attend performances of Händel's Messiah in December. Our tradition of Messiah began at Oakdale Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, which we attended when I was young. Every December the choir, directed by Sue Lamb Whatley, would perform a portion of Messiah. After I was ordained a Catholic priest, my mom and grandmother would visit me during the month of December. We always managed to find a performance of Messiah nearby. Mom liked the full Messiah . . . not just the Christmas portion with the Hallelujah Chorus tacked on at the end. A memorable year was the sing-a-long Messiah we participated in at the Central United Methodist Church in Asheville.
Well, last night, I was able to keep our Christmas tradition alive in Medellín, Colombia. The Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín, conducted by Alberto Correa Cadavid, together with the Estudio Polifónico de Medellín, performed the complete Messiah at the Teatro Metropolitano. It was a magical evening. The metropolitan theater is located near the new River Park in Medellín. Don Alberto is the founder and first conductor of the philarmonic. He began the tradition of directing Händel's Messiah in Medellín in 1974. He has directed it every year since. Last night was the 45th performance of Messiah in Medellín. It was sung in English with supertitles in Spanish. The soprano and the bass were excellent; the tenor and the alto performed admirably. But the chorus was simply magnificent. I was probably the only gringo in the audience, and so I was surprised that when we arrived at the Hallelujah Chorus, everyone in the house stood as is the custom.
I think that my mom would have been very pleased with the performance last night. In fact, I'm sure she was singing along with the angels:
"King of kings, and Lord of lords . . .
And he shall reign forever and ever!"