Written and Media by Mary Todd Christian
Each year as the air starts to cool, and the Christmas season rolls around, the Greenville College Music Department starts preparing for one of the most important performances of the school year. Students and community members squeeze their way onto the stage in Whitlock Recital Hall with scores in hand ready to sing. For some, the music is brand new, and for others they have been singing this music for over 35 years. Despite the years of familiarity vs the newness for others, the timelessness of the piece speaks to each singer. Once again, the Greenville College Choir, Chorale, and Greenville community members have gather to sing one of the greatest oratorios ever composed, Handel’s Messiah.
History and Composition
Messiah first performed in Dublin in 1742. Only having only been written within 24 days, it is probably Handel’s most famous work. Originally written as an Easter piece under the commission of King George II, Messiah tells the Biblical narrative of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Lyrics hand-picked by Charles Jennens (a close friend of Handel’s) directly from scripture, the message and Gospel of Jesus Christ is told from beginning to end. The piece begins with a tenor accompagnato with the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…” then continues with large choral anthems like “And the Glory of the Lord.” to solemn arias such as “The people that walked in darkness“, grave chamber choruses including “Since by man came death,” and then ending with the beautifully majestic “Worthy is the Lamb” and the “Amen” chorus.
85th Anniversary Season of Messiah
This is the 85th season Greenville will be performing Messiah. With the Choral Union under the direction of Dr. Jeff Wilson, and the Greenville College Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Professor Gary Erickson, the 100-piece Choral Union and 35-piece orchestra have been diligently practicing since September, and will perform from parts 1, 2, and 3 of Messiah. This year, 8 professional vocalists who all have graduated from Greenville College will be singing solos. Soloists include sopranos Sarah Seymour and Briget Winterman; mezzo-sopranos Lisa Gines and Stacey Ritter; tenors Lloyd Nicks and Kendal Stephens; and bass-baritones Daniel Denner and Jacob Yang. Fourteen professional instrumentalists from the St. Louis area will also be joining the chamber orchestra. Dr. Catherine Burge Staff Accompanist and Piano Instructor at Greenville College will be accompanying the Choral Union and Ms. Sarah Todd, Visiting Piano Instructor at Greenville College will be serving as organist. When Messiah was first performed in Dublin it was a benefit concert for a local children’s hospital. In keeping with this tradition, all proceeds from the concert with go towards International Childcare Ministries.
As a member of the Choral Union myself, I encourage all who are able to attend the performance. Having participated in Messiah these last 3 years at Greenville has been one of the biggest blessings for me to experience during the Christmas season. There are times during the performance when I have tangibly felt the presence of Almighty God as we were singing His redemption story. During the Hallelujah chorus, there are times when I have been filled with some of the greatest abounding joy at the promise of Christ’s return. I have never left a performance disappointed. In the end, though it may be a concert, it is by far one of the most beautiful worship services you can ever attend. Being able to hear scripture sung, and to hear the Christmas story, death, and resurrection of Christ is one of the most blessed activities you can do this Christmas season.
The performance will be December 6, 2015, at 4:00 p.m and seating will begin at 3:30 p.m.