Bernard Labadie, who conducted the extraordinary Messiah concerts this past week, is averse to taking solo bows. He bows with the soloists, he requests orchestra and chorus to take a bow, but not for himself alone.
Amy Kaiser and Susan Patterson, Chorus Director and Manager, respectively, sought to alter this personal tradition. After all, these were not only magnificent performances of this most-popular work–Kaiser tweeted that these were her finest Messiah concerts ever–but there was the heroism of Labadie himself, conducting his first concerts after battling a brutal cancer, and choosing to make his return with the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus.
So on Sunday afternoon, after “…for ever and ever. Amen,” after the soloists bows, the orchestra bows, the chorus bows, Labadie returned to the stage with Kaiser. The chorus rose again, but when the maestro asked for the orchestra to bow again, the musicians stayed in their seats. There was nothing for Labadie to do but turn and receive the audience applause.
Then he turned back to the chorus members, and waved an admonitory finger at them.
In spring 2014, Bernard Labadie fell ill while conducting in Germany. He was placed in a hospital where he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, a blood cancer. After a month in the German hospital he returned to his home in Quebec City. In October 2014 he received a dangerous stem-cell transplant, with one of his sisters serving as donor. He suffered from numerous complications, and was placed in an induced coma for a month. When he was finally awakened, his muscles had severely atrophied. A rigorous physical therapy followed. He finally left the hospital in April.
Labadie makes his return to the podium in the Messiah concerts at Powell Hall this week. Hallelujah.
Before guest conductor Bernard Labadie and I settled in to record an interview for the Saturday night, St. Louis Public Radio broadcast, he took out his smart phone and looked for Olympic hockey news. He’s Canadian, so no surprise there, but he informed me that family pride was at stake. His cousin, Patrice Bergeron, is a forward on the Canadian squad. Bergeron plays for the Boston Bruins in the NHL “and made more money in two years than I will see in my whole career,” Labadie remarked. “And he makes even more on endorsements.”