Sunday, December 9, 2012

Handel's Messiah

Last night I enjoyed a full performance of Handel's Messiah at the Vassar College Chapel in Poughkeepsie, New York.

I sat up front, right near the cellist David Bakamjian, who was playing an instrument from 1780. I sketched the central group of performers with the pipe organ in the background, using a water-soluble graphite pencil.
The singers of the Cappella Festiva and the Vassar College Choir really threw their heart into it, and together with the fine playing by the professional baroque orchestra (complete with trumpets from the period) the effect was triumphant and glorious. With three hours of concert time, there was lots of time to sketch.


Steve Finnell said...

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Steve said...

Wonderful sketches, and even with three hours it still looks like a lot of pipe organ rendering. "Trumpets of the period" leads me to wonder if that horn with a memorable name -- the sackbut -- was being played.

James Gurney said...

I think it's called a "natural trumpet" or a "Baroque trumpet," the valveless kind they used in Handel's period---Not easy to play. I'm no expert, but I assume that sackbut was obsolete by then.

mdmattin said...

Very impressive sketch of the orchestra, especially from so close. The angle of view is so wide and there's such a range of scales to relate to each other. The figure of the standing singer is very graceful.
The head studies are also great - they look like they could have stepped out of one of your books. You captured their essential characteristics and left out extraneous detail.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that such old instruments are still around and playable. Must have been a terrific performance at Vassar.
"The American Record Guide recently praised Mr. Bakamjian 'for playing double-stops and aggressive passagework with abundant ease...'"
The same might be said of James Gurney's delightful sketches.
Love the pipe organ as backdrop.
Your arrangement of the charming head studies intensifies the fascinating variety of character.

Very inspiring. Thanks. - mp

Diana Moses Botkin said...

What an inspiration you are!

Vicki said...

I also always take my sketchbook and draw during concerts. I know how hard it is to get the whole of the inside of a concert hall (or church, or wherever it is held) plus the organ, plus all the singers in proper relation to each other. This is beautiful.

jonathanpaulmayer said...

For anyone interested in Handel's "Messiah," there is an illustrated listener's companion that would make a great addition to your library. You can order the book on Facebook or from the author directly. I illustrated it!

James Gurney said...

Tricia asked: "Dear James May I ask what is a water soluble graphite pencil - I have used a graphite pencil (total lead) for life class but yours must mix with water and what sort of brush do you use to spread on the faces especially if you are in a theatre. Would appreciate a reply if possible and enjoy all your emails. regards Tricia"

Several companies make graphite pencils that dissolve in water. Derwent's Graphitint is one. Check in the store for pencils labeled "Water-soluble" or "aquarellable."