Messiah: A seasonal celebration

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus upholds a classic Christmas tradition by performing Handel's Messiah Dec. 12 and 13.

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus upholds a classic Christmas tradition by performing Handel's Messiah Dec. 12 and 13.

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus upholds a classic Christmas tradition by performing Handel's Messiah Dec. 12 and 13.

The Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (CSO) will bring Christmas to life with a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 12.

Music Director Paula DeWit is thrilled to present the combined efforts of the orchestra, chorus members, St. Mary’s School children’s choir, acapella group Belle Voci, and the talented soloists.

As you listen to the performers sing the sacred story of Jesus, you’ll be upholding a timeless tradition. Every Christmas and Easter, concert halls and churches are flooded with audiences who seek to attend live performances of this rich oratorio.

George Frederic Handel composed Messiah during an astounding four-week period of intense creativity. Similar to an opera, but without the theatrical elements or interactions, this English oratorio utilizes the orchestra, choir, and soloists to tell the cherished story.

Handel took his new oratorio to Dublin in 1741. The event attracted such a large crowd of the city’s elite that ladies were asked to wear dresses without hoops, and gentlemen were requested to remove their swords in order to make room.

Not only did the public declare Messiah a favourite, but so did Handel himself, for the remainder of his life.

Though unwell and blind, Handel insisted on attending a performance of Messiah just eight days before his passing in 1759.

The CSO will delight the Chilliwack audience with this work, as they have done time and time again.

Chronicling the prophecy of Christ’s birth, the children’s choir will bring genuine innocence and sweetness to For Unto Us A Child is Born.

“The young voices are enthusiastic, and they’re really fun to work with,” DeWit said.

Belle Voci will take on three choruses during the show, serving as the semi-chorus in the powerful Lift Up Your Heads during Christ’s Ascension.

The program for the second half includes DeWit’s selections to highlight the evening’s outstanding soloists.

Chilliwack countertenor Shane Hanson has performed with the CSO on several occasions, and has been working with DeWit since he was just a boy. He’ll be taking on the alto arias, bringing an unexpected brightness to the pieces.

Tenor soloist Jonny Michel has sung with the CSO on many occasions since 2010. He’s also performed with several university and Vancouver-based ensembles, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Soprano Carmen Harris, from Kelowna, will be debuting with the CSO, bringing performance experience from Opera Kelowna, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and more.

There is no better way to prepare for Christmas than to be blessed by the magnificent music in Messiah. This emotional work contains powerful elements of joy, tenderness, rebuke, hope, wonder and sadness.

“The music itself will blow people away, it is truly magnificent,” DeWit explained.

She gains great joy from working with large groups of performers, with more than 100 on stage for Messiah.

“Everyone has come together to make something really wonderful,” she said.

As the audience upholds the customary tradition of standing during Hallelujah, the powerful beauty of Messiah will resonate with everyone in the room.

This year, the CSO offers two performances of Messiah to Fraser Valley audiences. The first is on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.  The second is a sing-along Messiah held in St. Mary’s Parish at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13.

Tickets are available at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre (9201 Corbould St.) or at 604-391-7469.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students. Family rates and discounted tickets are available. Visit chilliwackculturalcentre.ca to learn more.