'Messiah' to be performed this weekend

Thursday, November 29, 2012
90 singers join a 31-piece orchestra Sunday for a performance of Handel's "Messiah." When the musical tradition began in the 1930s, the piece was performed every year. Since 1977, it's been performed every three years. This year's production is directed by Joanne Tucker. (Photo by Randy M. Cauthron)

Sunday night will echo the sounds of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Sacred Heart Catholic Church as musicians and vocalists perform Handel's "Messiah." The tradition, begun annually in the 1930s and changed to every three years in 1977, draws performers from as far as 100 miles away. This year features a 31-piece orchestra and a 90-voice choir.

"What's so neat is that we get so many people from different churches," Messiah Board Chairman Mary Lou Reed said. "It's thrilling to be a part of it."

Megan O'Brien, a Spencer native who attended Sacred Heart growing up, will perform the soprano solos.

"It's exciting," she said. "It's fun for me to perform my debut Messiah performance in both my hometown and my home church."

O'Brien graduated with a vocal music degree, and now teaches voice lessons at her studio in Iowa City, and over Skype. Following Sunday's performance, she is traveling to New York to audition for three different opera companies. Sunday night will be her first time performing the "Messiah."

"I've learned pretty much all of the solos from performing them one solo at a time," she said. "'Messiahs' are our bread and butter as vocalists."

O'Brien's favorite song from the "Messiah" is "Rejoice Greatly."

"It's often taken out if the piece needs to be condensed, because of the quick vocal passages," she said. "It takes more of a specialized voice to sing it, but I love the quick runs."

A performance of the whole "Messiah" runs about three and a half hours, and the piece is often condensed for time.

"It tells the whole story of Jesus," O'Brien said, "and to go through the whole thing is a lot for people to listen through in one sitting."

Sacred Heart was chosen once again as the performance location, which Reed attributes to the "beautiful acoustics."

"It's a wonderful facility," she said. "It really enhances the music.

This year's "Messiah" performance is sponsored by the Spencer Messiah Board, Daybreakers Kiwanis, and Hy-Noon Kiwanis. The performance is on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. and is free to attend.

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