For more than 25 years, the “la Caixa” Foundation (Spain) has been organizing concerts, bringing together professional and amateur musicians in more than 20 cities throughout the country. This Christmas, due to the pandemic, the seasonal concert had to be held in a different way.
Barcelona-based Igor Studio created an innovative hybrid digital project that brought together live and recorded performances of the “Hallelujah” Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The project included more than 350 amateur singers from Spain and Portugal, along with professional musicians.
The videos recorded by 352 singers were combined with audio recorded by the Catalan Baroque Orchestra and the Barcelona Ars Nova Choir, along with a live performance by a group of orchestra members in the magnificent Gothic Basilica of St. Mary of the Sea in Barcelona. The videos were projected on various surfaces inside the church, to spectacular effect.
The director and designer of this visual feast, Igor Cortadellas, told Metropoli that the basilica:
.. .seems to me a very emotive and also suggestive space, because each stone has history: it was placed by someone in a specific time and context. And at the end, we fill them with people, who also have much history and have been constructed in specific places and times. Therefore, it’s the emotion of the past and the future; we’re projecting towards the future but at the same time looking back, which gives meaning to the times we’re living.
At the beginning of the video, the basilica appears mostly empty, as a few rays of sunlight pierce through the stained glass windows, illuminating the columns and walls. Suddenly, video of a performer singing “hallelujah” appears projected on a column.
Soon more members of the virtual choir appear, and musicians enter the nave of the basilica and take up their instruments. Before long, the basilica is filled with the glorious and joyful harmonies of this musical masterpiece, along with videos of hundreds of singers on the walls, columns and ceiling.
The effect creates an uplifting sensation fitting for the birth or the resurrection of the Lord.
Handel’s Messiah is an oratorio based on biblical passages centered on Christ, the Messiah. It’s the most famous and emblematic work of the German composer George Friedrich Handel, first performed in London in 1743.
Legend tells that King George II stood up from his chair during the premiere, overwhelmed by the power and magnificence of the “Hallelujah” Chorus. Since then, whenever a choir performs this piece, which closes the second part of the Messiah oratorio, all those present stand.
I invite you to watch and listen. You’ll discover that the magic of technology has been used in the service of humanity at a very special moment of our history.
During 2020, such an atypical year, the virus has not been able to destroy our values and beliefs. These 352 voices are a hymn to hope, a grandiose “hallelujah” that opens the doors to Love.
In this case, the music has the quality of breaking down barriers. Race and language are irrelevant. It unites us all. It is universal—like the message of the Messiah.
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