All things being--as they say--equal, Sunday evening's

performance of George Frideric Handel's mainstay oratorio, Messiah, was a good one. Billed as being sold out, a presumed

group of no-shows revealed empty seats here and there in the Carmel Palladium's

1600-seat hall. Youthful

guest conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley moved his body and his hands on the

podium in a balletic fashion, perhaps calling undo attention to himself. Yet both his Baroque-sized orchestra and the

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir followed his dictates with great precision in

treading from slow to fast and from soft to loud--even with no such indication

in the score.

No better example of this "taking liberties" was found in

"Hallelujah" at the end of the second part--the world's most famous excerpt from

the world's most beloved oratorio. Quigley began it very softly before

swelling it up to full volume. And at the chorus' end he sped his forces

up, presumably to generate more excitement, excitement intrinsic to the music itself .

Moreover Quigley cut ten numbers from the 52-piece oratorio,

reducing the playing time to under 2 1/2 hours. Interestingly he kept the alto aria,

"He was despis-ed and rejec-ted of men," known for its excessive repetition of

that line. But

he cut back its da capos (repeats) and its inordinate length to a tolerable

degree, for once the right "interpretive" move. Quigley has a first-class conducting

talent which perhaps will benefit from greater maturity.

A definite plus for this performance was that the choir

diction was strikingly audible, even from my perch in the Palladium's lofty

Gallery. This

was in no small part due to scaling back the 184-member choir to only 54 choristers, and these 54 singing with great precision, for

which credit is at least partly owed to Quigley. Choir director Ed Stark also

deserves kudos. This

diction made one of Handel's greatest choruses, "Lift up your Heads," with its

antiphonal female-male interchanges, especially moving.

It has always interested me that Handel used the trumpets

and timpani quite sparingly, the trumpets first sampled in the chorus, "Glory

to God" in Part 1. The

next time is at the end of Part 2 in

"Hallelujah!" wherein both trumpets and timpani appeared. In Part 3 a trumpet solo is prominent,

expectedly, in the bass aria, "The Trumpet Shall Sound." And both trumpets and timpani appear

in the mighty concluding chorus, "Worthy is the Lamb," as well as in the concluding

fugue, "Amen!."

The four vocal soloists--soprano Joélle Harvey (who sang the

previous evening in the ISO's Classical Christmas), mezzo Dianna Moore, tenor

Colin Balzer and baritone Troy Cooke all did creditable jobs if not outstanding. The two female

singers shared a glowing rendition of the oratorio's most beautiful aria, "He

Shall Feed His Flock."

In closing this review, I'd like to suggest that it would be

interesting to hear Quigley's approach to Messiah

five to ten years from now (it may not be yours truly). Dec. 13