Church choirs gather for 'Messiah' performance

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Wed., Jan. 8, 2014
Soloist Brianne Gilbert takes direction from her dad, director Bob Gilbert. Photos by Lisa Stone.
Soloist Brianne Gilbert takes direction from her dad, director Bob Gilbert. Photos by Lisa Stone.

People came from many miles away to hear the songs of praise that filled the Trinity United Methodist Church on Jan. 5. The Annual Greater Hartford Handel’s “Messiah” Community Sing attracted approximately 500 guests and more than 100 singers who lent their voices to the event.

Director and organist Bob Gilbert helped create the event years ago when he saw a need for such a musical gathering. "This is a great way for people to end the holiday season," said Gilbert. "I felt that we needed to do something like this for the community. At first, it was a very small event, and with each year, it grows bigger and bigger. People have been coming here since our very first performance, and they are bringing friends and family, so it just continues to grow."

According to Gilbert, it is not easy for the church to do this on its own. This is why choir members from several other churches have joined in. Though the choirs have all practiced at their own churches, the group only rehearses together for approximately 30 minutes prior to the performance. "I know that everyone knows their parts really well, so that doesn't present much of a problem for me if they have not practiced together," said Gilbert. "Many of the performers have come back year after year. That is a plus."

Soprano soloist Brianne Gilbert, the director’s daughter, is excited to perform each year. "I grew up with music in my life," said Brianne. "Taking directions from my dad is nothing new. It really doesn't make it uncomfortable at all; in fact, it is very special to me. One of the other soloists, Lisabeth Miller, was my voice teacher. We all get to know each other and look forward to this performance each year."

Brianne got her start with singing in public at the Trinity United Methodist Church. She grew up singing in the church choir and then the high school choir. From there, she went on to train professionally. "Many of us have some type of professional job that involves our music career," said Brianne.

Alto soloist Rachael Binaco was not shy when she sang front and center at the performance. "This is a special concert for me," said Binaco. "I love participating in this event. I feel that this is a great way for the community to participate with us and celebrate the season together." She has been singing since high school, but her voice and career progressed far beyond those days. Binaco studied in the University of Connecticut opera program. This is her third year performing at this event. "The music community is pretty small, so I have gotten to know many people over the years,” she said. “It's been truly wonderful singing with them."

Barbara Faulstich of Higganum, Conn., enjoyed the show from the audience. Her friend, Clem Hitchcock, was a member of the Community Sing. "He was a bass baritone," said Faulstich. "He was a good friend and I really miss him. He sang here every year. He passed away this past September. His sister and brother-in-law still sing here, so I thought I would come out and listen to the beautiful music. People come from all over New England to hear this group sing. The director is fantastic."

The event is free to the public. At the end of the performance, people are encouraged to give to the church's concert series events fund. This year, approximately $500 in donations was collected at the event.

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