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Jennifer Geens
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 19/03) - If you were among the hundreds who took in Handel's Messiah at St. Patrick's Church over the weekend, you might have wondered about this, too.

Don't the conductor's arms ever get tired?

"There were moments when I thought 'Oh. Oh my. I'd like to sit down now,'" said Margo Nightingale, who led the Yellowknife Choral Society, the 10-piece orchestra, and the six soloists through the long and complicated piece, three nights in a row.

"But Handel was a very smart man," she said.

"He believed in interval training for conductors. Pieces requiring high activity are usually followed by something quiet and low key."

The choral society's first Messiah in 20 years sold out Saturday night, came close to selling out Friday, and had only 20 seats left on Thursday.

Nightingale thinks the community's response was a combination of a craving for classical music and a need for spiritual meaning to the season.

"I can't go anywhere without being stopped by people I don't know who tell me how much they appreciated the concert," she said.

"People were emotional about it."

Part of the magic was that virtually all of the musicians were Yellowknife residents. Only the two first violinists, the second violin, the viola and the cellist were from Edmonton. The rest of the 75 singers and instrumentalists were Yellowknifers.

"People did their best and they exceeded expectations," she said.

Nightingale was pleased that all their effort paid off. The Messiah was the Choral Society's most ambitious project to date.

"It was like the blind leading the blind but we ended up at the right place," she said.

Not that there weren't mishaps. The alto soloist fell ill Friday night, but Nightingale said everyone pulled together. Soloists Shad Turner and Morgan Jones stepped into the breach with about five minutes to review the music.

Not everyone was electrified by the choir. Yellowknifer knows of a few teenagers who ducked out at intermission after asking their mom if they'd been cultured enough for one evening. But the Hallelujah chorus brought everyone to their feet.

What's next for the choir?

"There's interest in the community for more classical music and larger pieces," said Nightingale.

The choral society has lots of ideas, but their next project will be a concert in April focusing on African American composers and gospel spirituals.