Monday, May 17, 2010

The Creation: Music Born of the Bible

The more than 50 voices of the Delaware Valley Chorale joined together to sing Franz Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece The Creation. Accompanied by a fine orchestra, under the nimble baton of Conductor and Artistic Director, David Christopher, this all-volunteer chorus (selected by audition) graced the audience with a fabulous performance of this lively setting of one of the Bible’s most beloved and well-known passages.

Christopher’s comments about the work being a hybrid of classical and baroque styles gave me a framework for listening and digesting the work. He described the work as an amalgam of Handelian choral singing and late classical music. The architecture of the piece could be heard clearly: the orchestral part, with its resounding timpani and warm strings provided the foundation, the choral writing, layered, imitative and sometimes canonic gave the work depth. The recitatives and arias were the decoration on this structure revealing the composer’s artistically musical interpretation of the text. The duets and trios brought the structure closer to the heavens with their soaring, virtuosic joy.

Bass Alex Helsabeck sang Raphael with clarity and warm, focused sound. Each phrase was planned and executed with gentle phrasing where the text required it. Helsabeck’s voice rich and full and he handles ornamented passages with grace, singing each note perfectly in pitch. In spite of the soloist’s unfortunate placement behind the orchestra, his voice was easily heard.

Joyous was tenor Dana Wilson (as Uriel) in his singing and presentation. Like Helsabeck, he projected out over the orchestra from the back with his sweet ringing tenor. Wilson brings the athleticism of his career as baseball umpire to his performance.

Melanie Sarakatsannis, soprano, provided the “icing on the cake” in the performance as Gabriel. She sang some wonderfully ornate passages with panache and a clear bright tone, projecting confidently. Her voice was well balanced with the other soloists in the duets and trios.

The real stars were the choristers. Haydn’s multi-layered piece provides many challenges in its imitative and canonic sections. Christopher has helped them grow into a group with a lush, unified quality. Each one of the singers is dedicated, and sings from a place of joy. That is exactly what they brought to the audience, too.


  1. In no offense to the others, Wilson's voice is remarkable. I have had the pleasure of listening to him at multiple venues and I continue to search out his appearances.

  2. In no offense to the others, Melanie Sarakatsannis was the star of a very well-executed (by all)afternoon of music.