'Messiah Sing' performed in Woodstock

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Tue., Dec. 13, 2011
Musical Director Edward Bradley talks to an audience member after the performance. Photos by D. Coffey.
Musical Director Edward Bradley talks to an audience member after the performance. Photos by D. Coffey.

The First Congregational Church in Woodstock held a “Messiah Sing” on Dec. 11, throwing open its doors to anyone interested in singing choruses from Handel's oratorio, “Messiah.”

Woodstock Festival Chamber Ensemble Director Edward Bradley conducted a 13-piece orchestra. Soprano Sarah St. Denis, alto Georgette Ross Hutchins, tenor Lynn Maxfield and bass David Belles performed solos. Audience members joined in singing several choruses, including “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” and “Hallelujah.”

The event brought together choir members from the community at large. It also attracted people who wanted to participate in the choruses and those who just wanted to listen.

Patty Frost first heard “Messiah” in 1970. “I fell in love with it,” she said. “It spoke to my heart.”

Beverly Brazeal and her husband, Earl, came to listen to the program as well. “We've got talented people,” Brazeal said. “They bring lots of different kinds of music to the congregation. It's a gift to us. This is just one facet of it.”

Bradley conducted the orchestra and choir from the chancel. With a backdrop of red and white poinsettias behind him, he gave cues to the orchestra seated directly in front of him, as well as to the sections of choirs sitting in the sanctuary. Sopranos, altos, tenors and bass singers took up certain areas in the pews. When called upon to sing, the groups rose in unison.

Audience members who wanted only to listen took to the balcony.

Choir member Debbie Gray said Handel is one of her favorite composers. “He wove some of the best-loved verses in the Bible into the songs,” she said.

Organist Leilani Nixon called the piece great fun for musicians. The orchestra had two hours of practice on Saturday. “The trumpets and timpani came in early just today to practice,” she said.

Bradley said the popularity of “The Messiah” has to do with the poetic text in the songs. “They come from the most poetic portions of the Bible,” he said. “The two go hand in hand. Some passages are inexorably linked to the music.”

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