Elijah coming Dec. 4 and 11

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Commonwealth Chorale will open its fall concert season with Felix Mendelssohn’s great oratorio, Elijah, on Dec. 4, 3 p.m. at the Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, 108 Yogaville Way, Buckingham. A second performance will be given Dec. 11, also at 3 p.m., at Farmville United Methodist Church, 212 High St., Farmville. For more information, call (434) 392-7545 or visit www.commonwealthchorale.org.

Elijah is written in classic oratorio style — that is, a work comprised of instrumental movements, choruses, recitatives, arias, trios, and quartets that together advance a story line, typically on a religious topic. In Elijah, the main elements of the narrative are Elijah’s drought prophesy; the suffering of the people of Israel under the resulting famine; the raising from the dead of the widow’s son; and the dramatic scene with rival sacrifices in which Baal is exposed as a false god, while God is proven omnipotent.

Part I concludes with the coming of the storm that ends the drought and the celebration of the people in the dramatic chorus, “Thanks be to God.” Part II recounts Elijah’s flight to the wilderness to escape the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel and to seek God’s presence and succor. Occurring in this half are the beautiful trio, “Lift thine eyes,” and the chorus, “He watching over Israel,” which are known and loved the world over.

Young singers in the Commonwealth Chorale are, from left, Elle Franssen, Kathryn McElfresh, Christian Surprenant and Ellie Shoenthal.

Young singers in the Commonwealth Chorale are, from left, Elle Franssen, Kathryn McElfresh, Christian Surprenant and Ellie Shoenthal.

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The Commonwealth Chorale, under Artistic Director Norma Williams, has drawn on the abundant talent in our area for singers and solo performers. Dr. R. Salvage, internationally known pianist and composer, brilliantly plays the challenging instrumental score. Bass and baritone soloists Reggie Davis, Bob Horn and Willard Pierce portray the role of Elijah, while Alex Haskins and Paul Robelen sing the tenor solos. Judy Amos and Jane Hohn sing the alto arias and recitatives. Soprano soloists are Meg Sandridge Mangum, Marilyn Swanson, Sarah Reynolds, Dana Garrett and Swami Gurucharanananda. Also participating are four young singers: Christian Surprenant, Ellie Shoenthal, Kathryn McElfresh and Elle Franssen.

When Elijah premiered in 1846, it was considered the crowning achievement of Mendelssohn’s career, cementing his reputation as one of the great composers of his time. Tragically, a little over a year later, in failing health and devastated by the death of his beloved sister, Mendelssohn died on Nov. 4, 1847, in Leipzig, Germany. He was 38 years old.