21-piece orchestra supports College Choir in 'Messiah'

The 76-voice Bates College Choir, accompanied by a 21-piece orchestra and directed by John Corrie, presents the second and third parts of Handel’s popular oratorio “Messiah” in performances at 8 p.m. Friday, March 28, and Sunday, March 30, in Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St.

Concert admission is free, but tickets are required. For more information contact 207-786-6135 or this email.

Written in just 24 days in 1741 and considered Georg Friedrich Handel’s masterpiece, “Messiah” draws from the Old and New Testaments to lay out the Christ story and its significance to humankind.

The oratorio’s debut, in Dublin in April 1742, “seems to have been one of those rare times in history when a transcendently great work is immediately perceived at its full value,” writes music historian Jan Swafford.

“There are so many breathtaking moments for both the vocal soloists and the chorus,” says choir director Corrie, a Lewiston resident who is also artistic director of the Maine Music Society. “So many familiar melodies and joyous sounds.”

While the piece is commonly associated with Christmas, its themes pertain to both Christmas and Easter. Because the entire work lasts about three hours, the choir performed the first part of the oratorio last December.

” ‘Messiah’ is one of those milestones that every choral singer should know,” Corrie says. It’s important for singers to learn the entire piece, so by dividing it between two programs he enables them “to learn all of it, but spread out the effort over two semesters of work.”

Eleven student soloists are featured in the performances. The instrumentalists will be drawn from the Bates College Orchestra and the ranks of professional Maine musicians.

“We will be performing Handel’s orchestration,” Corrie notes. “Which means strings, oboes, bassoons, trumpets and timpani, plus organ and harpsichord.” While Mozart and others later expanded the orchestral setting, he says, “I think it is more important historically for the students to hear what Handel had in mind.”

In order to accompany the vocal soloists and in keeping with the practice of Handel’s time, Corrie will conduct the ensemble from the harpsichord.

The vocal soloists are: seniors Maura Beatty of Watertown, Mass.; Dana Burgard of Kinnelon, N.J.; Alexandra Conroy of Windham; Marshall Karpel of Northampton, Mass.; Martynas Laurita of Camden; Joshua Olsen of Berkeley, Calif.; and Lucia Piacenza of Watertown, Conn.; juniors David Russell Richie of Wyomissing, Pa., and Tierney Tobin of Weybridge, U.K.; and sophomores Tom Chapman of Gales Ferry, Conn., and Erica Rogoff of Carlisle, Mass.

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