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Christmas spirit shines through ‘Messiah’

December 31, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – Their performance really moved me, these are tears of joy,” Anna Jagford said after witnessing the 54th annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah” last week at First Presbyterian Church.

“I loved every minute of it,” Jagford said of the concert, which lasted more than two hours to give the entire rendition of the Oratorio in all its glory.

Erica Kilborne, First Presbyterian’s pastor, welcomed the near-packed audience by thanking the musicians, saying the “words and love of God flow through them.”

And it took a lot of musicians to bring the show off.

The Messiah Chorus consisted of 76 singers, including 19 sopranos, 31 altos, 11 tenors and 15 bass voices; while the orchestra boasted 31 performers. They came from all over Northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan.

The chorus is open to singers of all faiths, and rehearsals generally begin in early November.

Four special guest soloists sang during the production – soprano Sarah Gartshore, tenor Matthew Daniel, contralto Kristin Gornstein and bass David Govertsen.

Conductor Philip J. Bauman was working on his fourth performance of “Messiah” in Michigan City, and his energy and lively actions could be felt throughout the show.

“The conductor was amazing. Just watching his arms move as it progressed, he never let up,” said Jordan Taylor of Michigan City, who was in the audience for his 10th performance of “Messiah.”

“This was one of the better years, in my opinion,” he said.

Bauman has conducted for over 24 years, but the Chicago native recently moved to Northwest Indiana. He is currently the Orchestra Manager of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra after having conducted as far away as Austria, Italy and Germany.

The “Messiah” Oratorio is a large-scale musical work for orchestra and voices, typically a narrative on a religious theme, performed without costumes, scenery, or dramatic performance. The best-known piece is “Hallelujah,” which has the entire crowd on its feet and singing along with the choir.

Part 1, “The Prophecy,” lasted one hour, part two, “The Crucifixion,” was 45 minutes and the final act, “Resurrection,” lasted 30 minutes.

At an Oratorio, the audience holds its applause until the end of the performance, with only brief pauses between acts and soloists taking stage as it progresses. When it was over, the audience roared with thunderous applause for a full three minutes – showing a gamut of emotions from joy, exhilaration and even some misty-eyed audience members who greatly moved by the concert.

While tickets were free, donations were accepted. One family, the Redricks, each donated $100, for a total of $400.

“We wanted to show our appreciation for the show, it takes a lot of talent and time to nail something this big,” Jeff Redrick said. “We always come out for this, I can’t remember how many years exactly.”

The “Messiah” will return next year for its 55th show. For information, visit MCMessiah.com.

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