Dec 13, 2019

Reconnect to the Holiday Spirit

Soprano Brenda Enns shares her thoughts leading up to our annual performances of Handel Messiah. Brenda has been a member of the Chamber Choir since 2000, and has deep relationship with the composer's beloved masterpiece. We hope her words inspire you this season.

by Brenda Enns, soprano

Brenda Enns, sopranoYou’ve decided to take some time to hear Tafelmusik’s one-and-only Messiah. We hope you will enjoy our performance of this beautiful, timeless, and treasured work.  We also hope you will be moved in a special way — perhaps even inspired, helped in seeing beauty once again, feeling joy, re-experiencing passion, remembering love.  

Are you in the mood? Are you in the holiday spirit yet? Are you open to feeling something special?  

As I write this, it’s early October in Toronto. Today was rainy and cool.  Last week, the temperature rose to an unusual high of 26 degrees with a humidex of 37. Once a Prairie Girl (always a Prairie Girl), I was not completely surprised that in this same week, parts of Alberta experienced a record September snowfall. Just a couple of days ago, while quickly running a shopping errand at Canadian Tire, I found myself jarred and at the same time unsure of how to feel when I noticed staff already unpacking and displaying Christmas ornaments and décor. (Apparently, it’s called “Christmas creep.”) Am I in the holiday spirit yet as I write this? Well, not quite. We haven’t even had our Thanksgiving turkey yet.

Soprano Brenda Enns singing with Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2019. Photo by Dahlia Katz.
Soprano Brenda Enns performing with Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, 2019. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

As a long-time soprano in the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, I have had the distinct pleasure of singing Handel’s Messiah five times every year for almost twenty seasons. Yet, every year before the Messiah concert run, I admit I find myself overly stressed with life and busyness and hustle and bustle, and not surprisingly, I notice my thoughts and feelings are not always focused on the “reason for the season.”  Despite not feeling it quite yet, the show must go on.

In that moment when I take my seat on stage yet again, this year for literally the hundredth time, with my stress and worry, my lengthy to-do list swirling in my head, I often doubt that I will get in the mood in time for the downbeat. How will I get to that place with everything that’s going on in my busy life, specifically, what the season can mean to me, whether it’s reminiscing on past memories of special treasured family traditions, the groundedness of timeless seasonal sacred rituals, the soothing warmth and comfort of crackling fires and gentle candlelight, the satisfyingly indulgent pleasurable tastes of sweet and savory treats, the satisfying smells of pine, cedar and pumpkin spice; the cheerful sounds of carols and jingle bells, the pleasures of relaxation time, movies, jammies and naps, the spirit of giving and service to others, thinking less about myself.  How will I get there?

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir performing Handel Messiah at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre, 2017. Photo by Jeff Higgins.
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir performing Handel Messiah at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre, 2017. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

I look down and see my heavily marked and re-marked and doodled score in my hands; I curiously watch, as if in slow motion, the soloists entering the stage, the dresses sparkling, glamourous and colourful; the gentlemen, smart and handsome; I wonder what extra special vocal ornaments will they dazzle us with this year; I look across the hall filled to capacity, I see the faces of those people in the second row and wonder how they know each other and is this their first time or hundredth time hearing this and where did they go for dinner and will they go out again later for drinks, and as I wonder if I know anyone in this audience or if my guests made it in time, what does my hair look like right now, do I have lipstick on my teeth and I hear in my head, “God, I’m so exhausted, how will I sing the next 3 hours,”....

And then it happens.  I see Ivars lift his arms and give that initial determined downbeat and I hear those first few jagged French over-dotted rhythms of that opening Overture, and I see how the orchestra works so organically and beautifully and expressively together and how magnificent the tuning is and how easily and expertly each player executes their well-honed technique.  And I take a deep breath as I look around and I realize once again, how lucky and undeserving I am to be part of something so incredibly special. And in those first few moments and all the special moments that happen in the next 3 hours, I find that special Christmas place again, my annual personal connection. I am humbled. My heart is opened.

As I write this, I am listening to Tafelmusik’s 2012 recording of Handel’s Messiah (of which I am grateful to have been a part) and I am content to have just now reconnected with and entered into that special place of Christmas spirit earlier than ever this year; that spirit which for me, is the spirit of compassion, wonder, generosity and love. I sincerely hope it can be that for you as well as you listen; especially this year. 

And now, I invite you to relax, let go and allow yourself to open your mind and heart as you listen.  Allow the spirit of Handel and Messiah to reach you and feed you and reconnect you to that special Christmas holiday place once again.

Join Brenda and the rest of the choir for Handel Messiah with Tafelmusik’s trademark expertise and care, intimacy and expanse. Our annual performances of Messiah have become a cherished annual Toronto holiday tradition—join us and discover why! BUY TICKETS

Brenda Enns
Chamber Choir