Handel’s ‘Messiah’: To sing a story

Audience gets a chance to participate in beloved oratorial

Ruth Wilson Francisco directs the choir as Gloria Decker sings a solo during “The Messiah” rehearsal. “The Messiah” performance is at 6 p.m. Sunday at The United Methodist Church on Park Street. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Ruth Wilson Francisco directs the choir as Gloria Decker sings a solo during “The Messiah” rehearsal. “The Messiah” performance is at 6 p.m. Sunday at The United Methodist Church on Park Street.

Everyone loves a good story. From campfire tall tales to operas, bedtime books to barroom fictions, stories entertain us and tell us who we are, individually and collectively, They also help shape what we believe about the world. When music is added to a story (think movie soundtracks), the impact of the story is magnified, its message enhanced, and our experience of it more complete. When music is added to a religious text, you have an oratorio.

One of the world’s most beloved oratorios, “The Messiah,” tells one of the world’s greatest stories: the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Residents of Montezuma County have an opportunity to participate in the retelling of this story on Dec. 15 when the second annual Messiah Singalong takes place at the United Methodist Church on Park Street at 6 p.m.

No one was more of a promoter of this new musical genre than George Fredrick Handel (1685-1789). A German composer who spent nearly all his adult life in London, Handel composed his famous oratorio in a staggering 24 days. It premiered in 1742 in Dublin, Ireland, and later made its appearance before King George II of England, who, as historical anecdote tells us, stood up, we assume from either reverence or indigestion, upon hearing the now-famous Hallelujah Chorus. The famous chorus will be part of Sunday’s event.

Patricia Faulkner, along with Gwen Tanner, Ruth Wilson Francisco, Brooke Snyder, and Joy Steffen, have teamed up to bring “The Messiah” to local residents. They invite all interested people, regardless of musical ability or experience, to participate. According to Tanner, “We don’t want people to stay away because they don’t have a trained voice or a lot of musical experience. It’s the feeling, the spirit of the music that we want people to come for.” In other words, the performance is intended for people simply wanting to share in the joy of singing this masterwork.

The Messiah is divided into three main parts, and music will be sung from all three sections, including six choruses: And the Glory of the Lord, O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings, For Unto Us A Child Is Born, Glory to God, Surely He Hath Born Our Grief, and the ever-popular Hallelujah. Says Faulkner, “The magnificence of the music should appeal to all people, regardless of religious background.”

Soloists will be interspersed throughout the 75-minute performance to help “narrate” the action. They are all local, mostly nonprofessional singers: Gloria Decker, Ruth Wilson Francisco, Chris Haggard, Carolyn Hoff, Arrelia Jorgensen, Randy Jorgensen, Carol Orrell, Howard Pack, John Patton, Judy Sadler, Jason Smith, Brooke Snyder, and Chris Snyder. Accompanists are Brooke Snyder on organ and Joy Steffen on piano. Additionally, there will be a small chamber ensemble this year consisting of strings, woodwinds, brass, and even a timpani.

People attending Sunday’s performance have a choice. Those wishing to sing in the chorus should arrive at 5:30 p.m. No previous rehearsal is necessary. People are encouraged to bring their own scores if possible, otherwise there will be a limited number of scores available at the church. For those who would simply like to enjoy the spectacle, the performance begins at 6 p.m. There is no charge for admission. Free baby sitting is available. And there will be a light reception afterward.

Messiah singalongs have become popular mainstays all across America during the holiday season. Last year’s Cortez Messiah Singalong drew in about 50 people. This year, organizers are expecting more people to attend and can foresee outgrowing their current venue in the future.

Participation, not perfection, is the goal for the second annual Messiah Singalong. Perfection is difficult, but in participating together, “the yoke is easy and the burden is light.” It will also be a lot of fun.

Wendy Watkins is owner and operator of S’more Music, LLC., a private Suzuki piano studio in Cortez. She can be reached at 565-4129.

Joe Curry and Cecilia Littleton Edwards provide music for the singers during a rehearsal for “The Messiah.” Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Joe Curry and Cecilia Littleton Edwards provide music for the singers during a rehearsal for “The Messiah.”