CLINTON — The holiday season is here, and that means the continuation of an 80-year Clinton tradition: the annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” to be held Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 715 S. Third St.
“This is year one in our cycle, which means we’re doing the Sing-Along,” Rob Engelson, RiverChor conductor, said. “It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, with participants singing through their favorite choruses from Parts I and II. Singers are encouraged to bring their own scores; we’ll also have a number of scores available for those who need them.”
The Sing-Along is a relatively new component of the “Messiah” tradition. It began in 1987 after John De Haan, former choir director at Clinton High School and longtime “Messiah” conductor, decided to discontinue his involvement. Dorothy Rathje, director of music at Zion Lutheran Church at the time, did not want to see the tradition that had been started in 1931 by her father, the Rev. Frederick Schoenbohm, to come to an end. So she organized a “sing-along” that resulted in over 100 singers and nine soloists gathering at Zion to keep the holiday event going. Since the early 1990s, the sing-along has alternated with a presentation of all of Part I with piano accompaniment, and a performance of virtually the entire work with orchestra accompaniment.
In addition to choruses, several of the solos from Parts I and II will also be performed by guest singers. In addition, this year’s presentation will include a new element.
“I’ve sent invitations to several area church choir conductors, asking them if they’d like to direct their favorite choruses on the program,” Engelson said. “I thought it would be interesting to ‘share the fun’ of conducting with my fellow directors, who might not always have the opportunity to do this very often. There are a couple of people who have expressed interest, but I’d love to hear from others. Just give me a call at 212-6555.”
Spectators are also welcome to come and listen to the performance. Members of RiverChor will be the “core” for the choir, but it is hoped that lots of singers will assemble at St. Paul’s and be a part of this wonderful tradition.