Brush up your Handel
Four Corners ‘Messiah’ Sing-a-Long set for Sunday


by Judith Reynolds

Folks who grew up on Handel’s robust music along with their Christmas cocoa have reason to rejoice. At 6:30 p.m. on this Sunday, St. Columba Church hosts the 10th annual “Messiah” Sing-a-Long. If you’ve never been before, here’s a chance to hear the first, or “Christmas,” section plus the Hallelujah Chorus.

A decade ago, founders Rev. Wayne and Mary Smith started this project along with St. Columba’s then-choir master, Mike Stanberry. It’s a gift to the community, especially since there is no other annual performance of Georg Friedrich Handel’s “Messiah” to be found locally.

Handel’s masterpiece was first performed in 1742. Since then, the oratorio has become the most famous work of English sacred music. Originally performed at Easter time, “Messiah” is now a staple of Christmas celebrations worldwide.

Next Sunday, when tenor Dave Smith sings “Comfort Ye My People,” all will seem well with the world. For the moment, anyway. That’s the effect of the opening vocal number. It’s a statement of prophecy. Whether you’re a believer or not, the musical effect is: relax folks; things are going to get better.

Here’s what to expect in a “Messiah” sing-a-long. First, this is an interactive concert. Bring a score if you have one. If not, scores will be available on loan. The audience effectively functions as the chorus, accompanied by the Durango High School Orchestra. This is amateur music making, and it’s fun.

Conductor Mark Rosenberg will lead things off with Handel’s overture followed by Smith’s prophetic solo and the aria “Every Valley.” Choruses will be interspersed with solos and the beautiful Pastoral Symphony.

If you’re not a singer, just come and listen. You’ll hear such familiar pieces as “Thus Saith the Lord,” “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,” and the sparkling soprano aria “Rejoice Greatly.”

A variety of local singers will serve as soloists including Smith. He’s a production technologist with BP who sings in the Durango Choral Society and the Fort Lewis Men’s Ensemble. He’s been a regular at the sing-a-long and once again has the juicy opening aria that settles everyone down.

Other soloists include: baritone C. Scott Hagler, minister of music at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; bass Dr. George Maxted, a family physician with Durango Primary Care; soprano Kimberly Farrell, director of the Miller Middle School Choir and Orchestra and co-director of DHS Orchestra; and mezzo-soprano Trisha Burbach, an FLC music graduate and current administrative assistant for the Durango Children’s Chorale. Accompanists include Carol Priest Thurman, vocal music teacher at St. Columba School as well as church organist, and Mary Smith.

Designed to be about an hour long, give or take some extra Handelian minutes, the program for participants gets under way a little before the 6:30 downbeat. If you’re a singer and want to look over your music, arrive about 6 p.m. If you want to brush up even earlier, choruses on the program include: No. 12, “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” No. 17, “Glory to God,” No. 21, “His Yoke is Easy,” and, of course, the big bazooza of Baroque music, No. 44, “Hallelujah!”

St. Columba may not be Carnegie Hall or London’s Albert Hall, but this “Messiah” sing-a-long is ours. •



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