The voices of more than 80 singers will fill the Moss Arts Center’s theatre when the Blacksburg Master Chorale presents one of the most iconic works of the holiday season. Joined by a professional orchestra and guest soloists, the ensemble presents Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.
The performance will be held in the center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall.
Featuring the glorious and resounding “Hallelujah Chorus,” the performance also includes Part I of the oratorio, as well as the closing “Amen” fugue. Part I consists of five scenes: Isaiah’s prophecy of salvation, the coming judgement, the prophecy of Christ’s birth, the annunciation to the shepherds, and Christ’s healing and redemption.
Guest conductor Meredith Bowen explains in her program notes to “Listen for Handel’s cosmopolitan influences in the French overture style of double dotting in the opening ‘Sinfony;’ the sound of the shepherd-bagpipers who played their pipes in the streets of Rome at Christmas time in the ‘Pifa;’ the third musical subject in the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ ‘And He shall reign for ever and ever,’ which harkens back to Handel’s German roots with the Lutheran chorale tune ‘Wachet auf;’ and the influence of Italian master polyphonist Palestrina in the ‘Amen’ fugue.”
A German Baroque composer, George Frideric Handel began writing oratorios — operas about sacred subjects that are presented in concert instead of acted on the stage — after his opera season was cancelled because of a lack of subscribers. He wrote 22 oratorios in all, composing “Messiah” in 24 days in 1741. The work gained popularity throughout the 1750s and, after Handel’s death, was performed all over the world with increasing adaptations and re-orchestrations based on the musical taste of the time.
For this performance, the Blacksburg Master Chorale is joined by an orchestra and soprano Melissa Heath, countertenor Charles Humphries, baritone David Newman, and tenor Brian Thorsett. Guest conductor Bowen is the director of choral activities and assistant professor of choral music education at Radford University, where she teaches classes in choral conducting, vocal pedagogy, choral methods, and choral literature, and conducts three choirs.
For 33 years, the Blacksburg Master Chorale has performed creative and inspiring repertoire, sharing the beauty of choral music throughout the New River Valley. Members of the chorale represent a broad spectrum of the community, ranging from high school students to retirees. Former members now have musical careers with such organizations as the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and Chanticleer. The chorale is led by music director Dwight Bigler, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at Virginia Tech.
Tickets for the performance are $20-45 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center’s box office, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.
While Virginia Tech students can always attend any Moss Arts Center performance for only $10, the center also offers free last-minute rush tickets for students who sign up for text notifications. To receive these notifications, text “arts” to 31996. Availability of rush tickets varies by performance and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last in the box office. Virginia Tech ID will be required for admission.