Organist, conductor, and music director Greg Morris simply loves the classical life. Though he dabbled briefly in academic music, he quickly discovered he wanted to know how best to perform the music in the here and now, so he decided it was best to get on and do that. “I was lucky enough to find the opportunities to do it and make a living at the same time,” Greg said.
One of those opportunities includes working with the Temple Winter Festival on two separate dates: December 10 in which he performs on the organ with the Temple Church Choir and Temple Singers; and on December 14 when the chamber choir Collegium Musicum of London performs Handel’s Messiah.
Handel’s iconic masterpiece remains as popular today as it has ever been. The work was first performed in London in 1743, and eventually became one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music. It focuses on the life of Jesus Christ in three parts: his birth, death and resurrection, using text from the King James Bible.
To end the Temple Winter Festival, the highly respected Collegium Musicum of London, founded and directed by Greg, will perform the piece with line-up of talented soloists. These include soprano Grace Davidson, alto James Hall, tenor James Way, and bass William Thomas.
With a regular membership of about 35 singers, the ensemble is based in London. Focusing naturally on a cappella repertoire, the choir performs sacred music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods as well as music of the nineteenth century, the great secular works of the last 100 years, folksong and popular classics. The ensemble hasn’t performed this particular piece since 2001.
Before Handel and Brahms, it was Greg’s long-held ambition to perform all of Bach’s music for the organ.
“For me, it is easily the finest body of work composed for the instrument in its long history,” Greg said.
When the opportunity came to arrange a nine-month-long series playing it all, it was a case of “now or never” for Greg. Through a relentless few months, he found it very worthwhile. The final concert was a two-hour marathon, performing Clavier-Übung III. The feeling at the end was mostly exhaustion for him, but it was tempered by an exhilarating satisfaction at having completed the project.
The Meaning of Music
Music has a unique ability, at its very best, to transport us to a different place, and that is what Greg always aims to do with his music-making.
“The effect obviously differs with the music being performed—to soothe, comfort, encourage, inspire, challenge, lift the spirits, tell a story, provide space for reflection—but the common factor is to provide a different perspective on the nitty-gritty of everyday life,” he said.
Greg thinks that the choral scene is flourishing in many places. Perhaps some of the difficulty of getting audiences is just that there is so much going on, but that cannot be a bad thing, he said.
Fundamentally, though, Greg thinks the crucial area is music education: The more practical experience people have of music when young, the more they will grow to love music and the more likely they are to go to concerts when older.
“It’s not a quick fix, but it’s really important,” he added.
To learn more about Greg Morris, and all of his projects and events, visit his website.