Arts and Entertainment

Saratoga Chamber Orchestra welcomes participation at ‘Messiah’

Legh Burns conducts the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra during the holiday season in 2010. - Photo courtesy of SCO
Legh Burns conducts the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra during the holiday season in 2010.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of SCO

Handel’s “Messiah” is waiting for a Whidbey chorus.

The Saratoga Chamber Orchestra invites the community to “Raise Up Ye Voices and Sing!” with a community sing-along of George Frederick Handel’s “Messiah” at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland.

Everyone is welcome to join the orchestra and conductor Legh Burns, along with Trinity choir director Karl Olsen, and raise up their voices for the world’s most celebrated holiday music. Audience members will be invited to sit in specially designated sections arranged by voice range and to participate in singing the chorus sections of “The Messiah.” Those who prefer to just listen are also welcome.

“Enthusiastic listeners are needed as well,” said Larry Heidel, SCO executive director.

“It’s the spirit of the work that counts,” he said.

Those who have their own vocal scores of “Messiah” are encouraged to bring them. Some scores will be available for rental at the performance. Scores are also available for sale at Joe’s Island Music in Langley.

“It’s the most often performed piece in all of orchestral and choral literature,” Burns said.

“Everyone knows it, everyone loves it and most everyone believes he or she can sing it better than anyone else! This is your chance,” the conductor added.

Handel composed “Messiah,” his best known work, in 1741. He received an invitation from officials in Dublin, Ireland to perform, and it was there on April 13, 1742 that the “Messiah” was first performed in public. It was received with great enthusiasm by the Irish, but was treated to a cold reception in London. The piece won back its popularity a few years before Handel’s death in 1759.

It’s also interesting to note that Ludwig van Beethoven so admired Handel’s work that he wrote it out himself so as to get the “feeling of its intricacies” and “to unravel its complexities.” Beethoven was heavily influenced by Handel at various stages of his career and he paid particular attention to certain fugal techniques in “Messiah,” with their long, sectional themes and their occasional and unconventional procedures.

But whether singers are familiar with the complexities of “Messiah” or not, the orchestra invites everyone to take the plunge into this uplifting piece of music.

Heidel said that the sing-along is the orchestra’s way to create a sense of community to the island during this festive season.

“We don’t know of a better way to begin the holidays than with this timeless piece,” Heidel said.

Singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus” at the end of the program, Burns added, will resonate from Clinton to Oak Harbor.

“It will lift the roof off the foundation. I guarantee it,” he said.

Donations will be accepted at the door, as will the SCO Season Flex Pass ticket.

Visit for a Messiah Sing-Along FAQs sheet.

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