Apollo Chorus of Chicago's Mendelssohn's Elijah Review - An Historic Oratorio and New Collaboration

Apollo Chorus of Chicago

The Apollo Chorus of Chicago and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra collaborated together to create a concert of Mendelssohn’s Elijah oratorio.  The Apollo Chorus is one of Chicago’s oldest volunteer choirs with over 125 auditioned members.  The Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra is in it’s 54th season with Stephen Alltop as the music director and conductor of the Orchestra and the whole oratorio.

Mendelssohn’s Elijah has been performed by the Apollo Chorus 30 times and was first performed by the chorus on December 14, 1885, thirteen years after they were founded, and this year they decided to work with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra to put on their second most performed oratorio in their 144-year history.

Some of the main soloists from the concert are tenor Patrick Muehleise, mezzo-soprano Kelsey Park, and soprano Michelle Areyzaga. The lead role of Elijah was performed by bass-baritone Gerard Sundberg.

Main soloists

The story of Elijah from the Old Testament starts with the prophet Elijah telling King Ahab of Israel that his worshipping of the god of Baal instead of the God of Abraham will cause a severe drought as a punishment from God.  After being accused by King Ahab that Elijah’s prophesy is what caused the drought, Elijah challenges the King to show his god’s power by lighting a fire under a sacrifice.

After many prayers there was still no fire from Baal; however, after Elijah prays to God fire descends from heaven.  The people were amazed at the miracle and Elijah tells them to get rid of all false gods.  Then, Elijah is challenged to pray for rain to get rid of the drought that was brought on by the worshipping of the god of Baal.  After he prays for rain the drought finally ends and that ends the first part of Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

The second half begins with Queen Jezebel being upset that Baal no one is worshipping Baal any more so she commands people to kill Elijah.  Elijah is warned that his life is in danger and he escapes to the desert where angels come to him and tell him to go to Mount Horeb.  God presents himself to Elijah and after that he goes back to Israel to preach the word of God.

Finally, the oratorio ends with the audience visually imagining Elijah ascending into heaven in a “fiery chariot with fiery horses” as the choir concludes the historic piece.  The choir and the orchestra end the concert with a standing ovation from the audience.

Inside Rockefeller Chapel

Mendelssohn’s Elijah was performed on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 7:30 pm at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S Woodlawn Ave on University of Chicago’s campus and repeated at 3 pm on Sunday, March 13, 2016 at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, 155 W Brush Hill Rd in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Outside Rockefeller Chapel

More information on upcoming events as well as opportunities to buy tickets visit the Apollo Chorus website or the Elmhurst Symphony website.  Photos courtesy of Jennifer Vander Sanden.

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