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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

“Messiah”: an Easter gift to the community

Feb 28, 2018 09:07PM ● By C.J. Payton

Not even the Easter bunny’s basket of treats can compare to the free community performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” at Grand Junction High School (GJHS) this Easter Sunday.

The Messiah Choral Society has gifted this special concert to the community every year since 2004. The concert features a 90-voice choir and several soloists with members ranging in age from 17 to 90. Choir members devote 14 Sundays to practice for this production, which premieres at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 1.

Local donors are just as committed to this performance, as they’ve contributed $13,000 to pay for professional soloists to help tell the story of “Messiah” with their extraordinary voices. Without these generous donors, tickets would be upwards of $50 each.

“Listening to Handel’s ‘Messiah’ will surely raise your spirits,” said Ed Arnos, who founded the Messiah Choral Society 14 years ago. “You cannot listen to this timeless musical masterpiece without feeling uplifted and inspired.”

“Messiah” is a large-scale work featuring scripture from the Bible that was compiled by Charles Jennens and set to music by Handel in 1741.

“It takes about 30 to 40 years of repeated listening to fully appreciate just how insightful Jennens was in his selections and how inspired Handel was in setting the text to music,” Arnos said.

Every year, soloists from near and far are invited to participate in the performance, giving life to this powerful work and spiritual message.

Tenor Mathew Coronado, a recent Colorado Mesa University graduate now living in Gunnison, was offered a solo after his performance at a live sing-along audition in November. Coronado will sing alongside one of his former voice teachers, Dr. Kathleen Ruhleder, an alto soloist who has performed with the society before. Now living in Houston, she returns for a rare, repeat performance.

DeAndre Simmons will sing bass. From New York City, Simmons has performed with top opera companies and orchestras across the country and for notable leaders such as Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon.

Sometimes the society will bring in talent from outside the U.S. Irene Vera is a soprano coming all the way from Mexico City.

Though the choir has 13 weeks to perfect their united voice, the soloists only have three practices with the choir.

Carlos Elias travels from Dayton, Ohio to resume his role as concertmaster. Elias was involved from the organization’s beginning, serving as concertmaster for nine of the first 10 “Messiah” performances.

Be uplifted and inspired at the Messiah Choral Society’s Easter Sunday performance at 2:30 p.m. at the GJHS auditorium. For more information, call Arnos at 245-4914.

For those who are unable to make the Easter performance, the society is offering a special preview during dress rehearsals at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 31 at the GJHS auditorium. Tickets are $5. Come early for a 9 a.m. informance by conductor Scott Betts, who will talk about the composition, its creators and the current musicians.

“This depth of talent and message is the reason ‘Messiah’ continues to entertain audiences young and old for more than 270 years,” said Arnos.

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