Music department’s Messiah proves a hit

BY Maria Harr

Staff Reporter

George Frideric Handel’s famous oratorio, “Messiah” was performed for the first time in Dublin this month 272 years ago. Today, the oratorio has become a popular staple for choirs during the Christmas and Easter seasons.

Central’s Chamber Choir and Chamber Orchestra will follow the long standing tradition with a performance this Sunday.

Hundreds of choirs will perform “Messiah” this month, but Gary Weidenaar, Director of Choral Studies, said this performance will be special because they will be performing the entire oratorio.

“It’s humbling,” Weidenaar said, “because you figure it’s been done hundreds of times. It’s part of history.”

Weidenaar said, typically, choirs only perform selections from “Messiah,” most notably the Hallelujah Chorus. Central has performed pieces  before in 1994 and later in 2003. This year’s two-and-a-half-hour performance will be the first time Central has performed the oratorio as a whole.

Because of its popularity, Weidenaar said it is important for students to have performed in something as recognizable and historical as Messiah.

For both the performers and the audience, Weidenaar thinks hearing and performing the whole oratorio will be a good experience, as very few people have seen the whole piece.

The choir began learning pieces of the 280-page score during fall quarter and the orchestra will have had 11 practices by the time of the performance.

Choirs usually hire four soloists for “Messiah,” but Central will be using talented choir students for the solos. The soloists will step out of the 32-person student choir for those solos, which Weidenaar admits will be difficult near the end of the two hours and 40 minutes of music.

“We like to feature our students whenever we can,” Weidenaar said.

Sam Booth, orchestral conducting graduate student, is Chamber Orchestra Conductor Nikolas Caolie’s assistant, and will be playing the upright bass during “Messiah.”

Booth, with a degree in bass performance already under his belt, is still learning “a completely different style of music” with “Messiah.” Because the modern bass is so different from what was used in the past, Booth has to learn to conform to the older style of playing.

“Messiah is amazing,” Booth said. “It’s really transforming my view on Baroque style.”