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Salisbury Symphony, chorale to present ‘Messiah’

By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post

Salisbury Symphony and Salisbury Symphony Chorale will present “Messiah” on Tuesday, Dec.  19. It’s the first time in more than 20 years they’ve performed the piece. Symphony Director David Hagy has conducted parts of it twice in Salisbury — first in 1990 and again about six years later. The symphony hasn’t performed it since.

Because Handel’s original work takes over 3 hours to perform, this performance, like most, is a mélange of pieces. Hagy selected the pieces including “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” “He Shall Purify,” and “His Yoke is Easy.” The last big chorus is, “Worthy is the Lamb.” Rather than ending with the six-minute long, “Amen,” the musicians will instead perform, “Hallelujah.”

The production begins with the arrival of angels predicting the birth with “For Unto Us a Child is Born.” The next piece, “Rejoice,” has an amazingly difficult soprano part. “Fortunately,” Hagy says, “we have an excellent soprano.”

“I’ve omitted the two best arias, as they don’t fit the story at all,” Hagy notes. He adds that the hardest part for him is selecting the different parts and assembling them to make sense for the story of Christ’s birth.

The Salisbury Symphony Chorale was formed just this summer. The first performance was in September with the Bach Cantata at St. John’s. “The Bach Cantata was very difficult, and we did it with only five rehearsals; this time we have a few more rehearsals.”

Originally, Messiah was to have had a choral director and an orchestral director, but Catawba Associate Chair of the Music Department Phillip Burgess had to excuse himself after a time-consuming promotion at work. Hagy agreed to direct both groups. He says it wasn’t as difficult as he first thought, due to the caliber of singers.

“Oh, Handel invented the oratorio in England because the English didn’t like his Italian operas,” Hagy said. “They are very dramatic. It is constantly changing, orchestra, soloist, music — it all goes very quickly with words. Then an aria. We have four very good soloists, and section leaders. You can’t express the emotion with solo alone, so in comes the choir, and it’s all very powerful.”

For this show, two very challenging choruses are “He Shall Purify,” and “His Yoke is Easy.”

It’s said that the custom of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus began at the London premiere when King George III, moved with emotion during the piece, spontaneously stood. Audiences years hence have stood for the piece.

Hagy also advises guests to watch for the piece, “Rejoice,” with Anyee Ferrar as soprano, Luke Boudrault as trumpetist and Eric Powell as singer. “It’s not to miss.”

Finally Hagy laments, “It’s unfortunate people think they have to know a lot for classical music; they do not. They can enjoy it nonetheless.”

The Messiah was composed in 1741 by George Frederic Handel. It will be performed Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children aged 10 to 18, free under age 10. They’re available online at salisburysymphony.org.

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