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A Doodler meets the Messiah

The thing I love to do most when I go to concerts is to draw the musicians on stage. I think it comes from some inner compulsion to be a participator. So, when my family and I went to watch the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra perform Handel's Messiah, I was quite excited to 1. see it for the first time, and 2. have a lovely two and a half hour sketching time! My brother Colson gave us the tickets as an early Christmas gift. If you're reading this now and thinking, "Golly, I wish I could have gone to see the Messiah!" Never fear! You can buy a copy of the concert here:

Shameless plug over. Time for the real content. ;)

When we entered the concert hall, I was happy to notice a friend onstage! Colson and I got to know the cellist Yuri in a lovely Bible Study he was leading, where we discussed scriptures, the arts, and of course life and faith in general. There's something about knowing someone on stage that makes a performance even more enjoyable, isn't there? It somehow makes you feel that you have some kind of responsibility for the success of the performance, because your friend is a part of it. Your connection to the music is not merely as an observer, but as an invested friend of the arts. This, of course, does not make the musicians more skilled or the venue more beautiful. But it makes you notice those skillful beautiful aspects more, because of the personal connection you have with the performer. That's a pretty neat aspect to good music, isn't it? The beauty that comes from friendship. As a wise pony once said: Friendship is Magic.

The main subjects for my sketching were the soloists. We were pretty close to the stage, so I got to see everyone pretty well, and of course, the solo singers were the closest performers to the audience. In looking up their official profiles afterwards, I feel the need to place a disclaimer in this blog saying that the subjects in question may not look quite like the real people! Their cover photos in their profiles are all very attractive, and I feel that I didn't do them justice in that regard. But I am happy with my drawings, regardless of their accuracy. I like how the tenor, Matthew, ended up looking like a mysterious film noir character. I like the shape of Neil, the bass singer's head, and his raised-eyebrow resting expression. I like my simplified sketch of the alto, Kirsten, who smiled through the whole performance. And I can't help but laugh when I see my caricature of the soprano, Jessica. I admit it - I waited until she made a big O shape with her mouth and I drew her that way.

If by now you're feeling the itch to listen to some good Messiah music, I have a recommendation for you. My mom found a wonderful rendition of Handel's Messiah on Spotify that we love! In this album, they sing it like they mean it. They have a lot of energy, and just wait until you hear how they sing the word "reigneth." It's a trill straight from heaven.

Drawing of a double bass musician, done with pen and ink
The Double Bass - a noble instrument!

I think the most energetic drawing I did during the Messiah was of one of the double bass players. I was not satisfied with a static image, because the music itself was so full of life! So I drew from my animation background and went for a few unique poses. My family and I really appreciate a good bass, be it a double bass musician or a deep rumbly singer.

One of my favourite movements of the Messiah was a bass solo: "The Trumpet Shall Sound." Before this concert I didn't comprehend how broad the scriptural scope was in Handel's Messiah. The themes go from the Christmas Story to Hebrews to Revelation! Not that Handel got very wordy or descriptive in his theological content. Most of the movements include one or two phrases, repeated over and over, with the melody and the musicality imbuing the words with meaning. It was kind of like a word study where you try to explain what something means, not by using more words to flesh out the concepts but by using notes, rhythms and musical phrases to describe the essence of an idea. If you're a Christian Musician, consider trying this technique out as a devotion practise sometime! I bet it would be a rich and rewarding experience! Let me know if you end up doing this experiment. Maybe you'll be the next Handel!

My final thoughts on Handel's Messiah are that the conductor had wide-legged pants that made her look like she had no feet from the back. This is something to consider when you're a conductor because the audience will primarily be looking at you from behind. Personally, I think the effect was pretty cool.

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