Commonwealth Chorale to rehearse Elijah

Published 7:30 am Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interested singers are invited to join the Commonwealth Chorale in preparation for performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s great oratorio, Elijah.  Rehearsals begin Oct. 11 from 7-10 p.m. at Farmville Presbyterian Church, 200 W. 3rd St.  All are welcome; no auditions are required except for solo parts.  Performances will be Dec. 4 and 11, locations to be announced.  For further information, call (434) 392-7545 or visit the chorale’s website at:

Young singers ages 7-12 are invited to join our youth choir, Rondi’s Voices, which will participate in both performances.  For information about youth rehearsals, call Christine Prengaman at (434) 390-7879.

The magnificent Elijah, sometimes referred to as “the other Messiah,” was first performed on August 26, 1846, in Birmingham, England.  The premiere was a triumph.  According to the London Times, “The last note of Elijah was drowned in a long-continued unanimous volley of plaudits, vociferous and deafening.  It was as though enthusiasm, long-checked, had suddenly burst its bonds and filled the air with shouts of exultation.” Eight numbers had to be encored before the audience was satisfied.  Mendelssohn himself viewed the work as his greatest achievement.  Indeed, in England, only Messiah has remained as popular or influential.

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Elijah is based on the life of the biblical prophet, as recounted in the Old Testament Books I & II Kings.  The people of Israel have broken their covenant with God to obey his commandments, turning instead to false gods and idols.  As punishment for the perfidy of the people and their leaders, and fulfilling Elijah’s prophesy, drought and famine have overtaken the land.  To convince the people to turn to the true God, Elijah proposes a test to prove whether God or Baal is the real god. The priests of Baal and Elijah each prepare a sacrificial altar.  The priests call on Baal to light their fire.  Nothing happens.  Elijah drenches God’s altar with 12 barrels of water.  Fire descends from heaven to consume it all — even the water.  The people then rise up to slay the priests of Baal.  God further manifests His omnipotence by sending a storm to end the drought. The faithful celebrate with thankfulness, and Elijah is strengthened in his quest to bring all the people of Israel back to the true God.  The portrayal of Elijah in this scene illustrates Mendelssohn’s conception of the prophet: “I imagined Elijah as a real prophet through and through, of the kind we could really do with today:  strong, zealous, and yes, even bad-tempered, angry, and brooding…and indeed at odds with almost the whole world — and yet borne aloft as if on angels’ wings.”  The Commonwealth Chorale is proud to bring this stirring and triumphant choral masterpiece to the communities of Southside Virginia.