For two decades, Roger and Linda James have shared one very special activity together as a family with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO).
They both perform Handel’s Messiah with the symphony.
Roger is a violinist who has played with ASO since 1985. Linda sings with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra Chorus.
This past week, Bham Now talked with Roger and Linda about ASO’s upcoming performance and what it means to them to be part of a Magic City holiday tradition.
Gearing up for Christmas
According to Linda singing with the Chorus gets her ready for the holiday season.
“To me it really brings the Christmas holiday in full gear. It is such a gorgeously written piece of music (Handel’s Messiah). It is always a delight to get to sing it, and it is so well received by the audience too. So its a win-win.”
Over the years each performance is different
“We’ve had a lot of conductors show us their approach to it (Handel’s Messiah). I don’t think we’ve had a bad one yet, but we’ve had some really great ones,” stated Roger.
Having both the symphony and the “voice of the symphony” the ASO Chorus is an important ingredient for a successful and extraordinary performance, according to Roger and Linda.
To have the full professional group – the orchestra and the chorus makes a difference.
“When they are that good (the choir), the orchestra can just fit in with them, which is what we are suppose to do, follow the chorus. It is one of the really good chorus’ (Alabama Symphony Orchestra Chorus) in town.”
And everyone loves the Messiah’s Hallelujah chorus
Of course, one of the most memorable moments during the performance of Handel’s Messiah is the famous Hallelujah chorus and the moment the entire audience stands.
Linda describes why it still brings chill bumps to her year after year.
“When the Messiah hallelujah chorus starts and you are up there singing and then everyone starts standing up, it always brings tears to your eyes because it is such a long tradition, the entire audience standing. It goes back to the king who was tired of sitting and stood up – and now everyone stands for the hallelujah chorus. It’s very emotional when you are in the chorus, when the whole audience starts standing up.”
Roger added, Its been happening for hundreds of years and besides it really is a rousing chorus,” he chuckled.
As a bonus this year the Bach Magnificat
And Linda did not want us to forget the Bach Magnificat. “This is the first year they are doing the Bach Magnificat as well as the Messiah. That is new for the chorus which is exciting and beautiful. That excites me to have both pieces on the program,” she added.
The Messiah’s special connection between Roger and Linda
When we concluded our interview, we asked Roger and Linda why they have spent so many years together performing this one special concert.
Linda smiled broadly and said, “I like being in the chorus with Roger on the stage. I feel more connected to him than when I’m sitting in the audience listening to the orchestra. It is fun to share that experience with him.”
With a twinkle in his eye, Roger said. “Same way.”
Join the James family, Maestro Carlos Izcaray and the 100+ voices of the ASO Chorus when they perform Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Magnificat.
There’s only one performance on Friday, December 15th, 7:30 at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center.
This program is a special event of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s 2017-2018 Season. Tickets start at $39, with student prices available. Purchase tickets online at alabamasymphony.org, in person at 1200 10th Ave. South, Birmingham, or call 205.975.2787.
Make it a family tradition today.