It has been more than 20 years ago since a Jefferson City audience heard George Frideric Handel's most noted orchestral piece, his "Messiah" oratorio, performed.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, fans will not only get a chance to hear "Messiah," but also sing along to its major choruses, including "Hallelujah Chorus," when the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra presents this special performance at Mitchell Auditorium in Richardson Performing Arts Center on the Lincoln University campus.
"The ("Messiah") Sing-Along is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the wonderful music and voices of this classic piece once more," said Patricia Koonce, Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra board member and orchestra member.
Composed in 1741, Handel's "Messiah" is an English-language oratorio with scriptural text by Charles Jennens in which he acquired from the King James Bible and the version of "Psalms" included with the "Book of Common Prayer," according to Encyclopedia Britannica. They then drew it into three parts of the Bible: Old Testament talking of the Messiah's birth; New Testament stories of his birth, death and resurrection; and verses relating to Judgment Day.
The Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra along with Symphony Singers and members of MOstly Opera will deliver the first part, which celebrates "Christmas" and the birth of Jesus Christ, and will end with the famed "Hallelujah Chorus."
"The entire 'Messiah' covers Christmas, Easter and after the resurrection and takes about two and a half hours to perform," said Bonnie Verdot, Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra production manager, board member and string bassist. "We are just doing the first part and ending with the 'Hallelujah Chorus' that everyone knows and loves. 'Hallelujah Chorus' is actually in the Easter portion of 'Messiah' (part two) but it is traditionally performed with the Christmas portion."
Verdot said the musicality behind that chorus and its emotionally driven sound is why it is joined in many traditional Christmas holiday "Messiah" performances.
"Often the 'Hallelujah Chorus' is described as what heaven must sound like," she said. "With the full orchestra playing during this chorus, the singers leading the piece and the audience encouraged to join in, it is a wonderful opportunity for them to experience something thrilling."
According to the "Messiah" passage in Encyclopedia Britannica, instrumental support is "unusually bold" for the Baroque era in which Handel's composition premiered. It mixed homophonic harmony, or chords supporting a single melody at one time, with polyphonic complexity, or simultaneous and equally important melodies. Many of the choruses throughout the oratorio showcases similar blends of musical textures, the passage stated.
Verdot said when Handel wrote "Messiah," choirs were typically singing the choruses, with one person accompanied by a small orchestra featured in the arias during each scene.
"Handel often used small choirs or orchestras, not a huge massive orchestra often seen now when 'Messiah' is performed. He did not have that to his benefit back then," Verdot said. "So, we will have soloists singing an aria accompanied by a few features members of the orchestra, with the whole orchestra performing during the choruses, which will be lead by the whole choir."
There are many soprano, alto, tenor and bass solos throughout the first part of "Messiah," and sopranos Bethany Kiral Moebes and Sandra Troutt, altos Samantha Crabill and Karin Schatte, tenors Kerry Cordray and Ryan Hampton, and bass Tom Steever will perform these solos throughout the piece.
"If you attend church you will be familiar with the words even if you don't know the tunes," Verdot said, noting theses arias and additional scenes will lead into the choruses. "Audiences will be familiar with the words to the choruses like 'Glory to God in the Highest' and 'For Unto Us a Child Is Born.'"
Those choruses are where the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Singers encourage audience members to sing along. Verdot said they can bring their own music or follow along with words to the choruses that will be projected on the walls.
"They can sing along if they want, but they don't have to. Hopefully we'll have 500 voices singing together it is a joy to sing these wonderful words to Handel's wonderful music," Verdot said.
She said this year the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra has developed more community engaged concerts and performances, delivering varied programs that the whole family can enjoy like its Symphony Spooktacular, Handel's "Messiah" Sing-Along and piano concerto competition winner performance and tribute to Robert and Charlene Mitchell during a concert next spring.
"The Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra is nearing its 100th anniversary and it is amazing many people still don't know about us," she said. "We may not be able to compete with the St. Louis Symphony or New York Philharmonic, but we are pretty darn good for a community orchestra."
Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students. They are available at Will West Music, Capital Music, at the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra's website, jcsymphony.org, or at the door.