Mendelssohn’s epic oratorio is a moving musical tribute to the prophet who was drawn up to Heaven in a whirlwind. Composed in the spirit of Bach and Handel, the work clearly reflects Mendelssohn’s own genius, combining vivid and dramatic sound-pictures of oceans, earthquakes, fires, and resurrection of the dead. Scored for four vocal soloists, boy soprano, full symphony, and a large chorus, this performance features the well-known talents of the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, all under the baton of Jerry Blackstone.
Formed by a group of local university and townspeople who gathered together for the study of Handel’s Messiah, the UMS Choral Union has performed with many of the world’s distinguished orchestras and conductors in its 133-year history. First led by Professor Henry Simmons Frieze and conducted by Professor Calvin Cady, the group assumed the name The Choral Union. Since its first performance of Handel’s Messiah in December 1879, the UMS Choral Union annually performs the oratorio. Based in Ann Arbor under the aegis of UMS, the 175-voice Choral Union is known for its definitive performances of large-scale works for chorus and orchestra. Sixteen years ago, the UMS Choral Union further enriched that tradition when it began appearing regularly with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO).
Led by Grammy® Award-winning conductor and music director Jerry Blackstone, the UMS Choral Union was a participant chorus in a rare performance and recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in Hill Auditorium in April 2004 under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. Naxos released a three-disc set of this recording in October 2004, featuring the UMS Choral Union and U-M School of Music ensembles. The recording won four Grammy® Awards in 2006, including “Best Choral Performance” and “Best Classical Album.” The recording was also selected as one of The New York Times “Best Classical Music CDs of 2004.” Participation in the UMS Choral Union remains open to all students and adults by audition.
The UMS Choral Union began performing on December 16, 1879 and has presented Handel’s Messiah in annual performances ever since. This weekend’s performances mark the UMS Choral Union’s 419th and 420th appearances under UMS auspices. Dr. Blackstone makes his 21st and 22nd UMS appearances, following his debut leading the Choral Union in performances of Messiah in 2003 at the Michigan Theater.
This weekend’s performances mark the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s 68th and 69th UMS appearances since their 1974 UMS debut.