The greatest gift

Civilization is a wonderful thing.

Every so often we venture from our small town where the locals’ idea of foreign food is Taco Bell and Guido’s Pizza, to a “real” place. You know, the kind of city with lights for miles at night, real shopping malls, and diversity?

I had such an opportunity this weekend, when my sister invited me for a much-appreciated “getaway.” We battled the snow in the eastern Cleveland snow belt for the lights of an area called Coventry, which has a delightful mix of small shops and interesting places to eat. We chose a combination Thai/Korean/Japanese restaurant called the Tree Country Bistro , where we had an assortment of vegetarian and other appetizers, fresh sushi and edameme, and some killer Basil Fried Rice.

Then the highlight of the evening was a trip up Fairmount to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to hear the complete Handel’s Messiah performed by Apollo’s Fire.

If you appreciate baroque music and you have not heard Apollo’s Fire, then you are missing something amazing. Reading over the bios of the performers, both vocal and instrumental, we found dozens of advanced degrees in music, advanced study and accolades  in no less than seven countries, and outstanding accomplishment. Music Director Jeannette Sorrell and her small, diverse group play period instruments (she conducts and plays the harpsichord during the performance) to give the audience the same quality of experience as those who listened 300 years ago.

I always thought the phrase “less is more” was something very odd, but Apollo’s Fire demonstrates the truth of these words to perfection. Not only do they command the venue with a modest several dozen singers and instrumentalists,but the soloists are a delight.

I have to confess that normally I dislike soprano soloists in almost any performance because they are belting out ear-piercing arias. Not so here. Amanda Forsythe brings her crystal voice to a near-whisper in places where others would give too much–she brought tears to my eyes. Definitely my favorite.

The group is often featured on public radio, so you too can share in the magic, with a performance of the Messiah on both December 23 and Christmas Day, at least in our neck of the woods. Check your local schedule to see when your local station will feature them (assuming you have civilization enough to have a National Public Radio available).

It’s important at this time of year to remember to take care of yourself while you’re rushing about with holiday plans for everyone else. Take the time to listen to some great music–or read a book, take a hot bubble bath, light a candle and meditate, get away for a day. Give yourself a gift as well. Your loved ones will be glad you did.

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