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Aiken Symphony Orchestra, Festival Chorus join to perform Handel’s ‘Messiah’

November 23, 2018

The Aiken Symphony Chamber Orchestra will bring a popular rite of the holiday season to concertgoers Tuesday, Dec. 18.

The Chamber Orchestra, along with soloists and vocalists with the newly formed Aiken Symphony Festival Chorus, will perform G.F. Handel’s “Messiah” at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church, 138 Fairfield St. S.E.

Tickets are $32 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. For tickets, call 803-220-7251 or 803-295-0313 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The soloists will be Diana Amos, soprano; Adam Kirkpatrick, tenor; Jacob Will, baritone; and Rachel Calloway, mezzo-soprano. Dr. Donald Portnoy will conduct.

The Aiken Symphony Chamber Orchestra is composed of musicians from the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, which the Aiken area has supported and enjoyed since its inception in 2015, according to a news release from the orchestra.

The Aiken Symphony Festival Chorus is composed of local singers of high caliber from the Aiken Choral Society and other choral groups, according to the release. Choral conductor Dr. Maureen Simpson is the director.

“It’s very exciting that we have our own symphony, and it’s exciting that Dr. Portnoy wants to do something big with chorus,” Simpson said in a story in the Aiken Standard in October.

Symphonies in large cities – such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta – have choruses, Simpson said.

“Here in Aiken, we’ve got great talent, too,” she said.

With its booming score and joyous chorus of “Hallelujah,” Handel’s “Messiah,” the Baroque-era oratorio, still awes listeners 250 years after the composer’s death, according to the release.

With the “Hallelujah Chorus” as its centerpiece, “Messiah” is probably the most famous piece of classical music in the world and is performed thousands of times every year at Christmas, according to the release.

The Aiken Symphony Orchestra, conceived by conductor Portnoy and formed in 2015, comprises professional musicians from the region. Tom Hofstetter, a former Aiken Performing Arts Group president, and the Aiken Symphony Guild were pivotal in the nonprofit’s start and its continued success, according to the release. In addition to the orchestra’s classical and pops concerts, the Orchestra is presented by the Aiken Symphony Guild at youth concerts in February each year.

Portnoy received the Columbia University’s 2004 Ditson Conductor’s Award for his commitment to the performance of works by American composers. The S.C. Arts Commission named him winner of the 2015 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts in the individual category.

In 2017, Portnoy received South Carolina’s highest honor, the Order of the Palmetto, for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance.

At the Aiken Symphony Orchestra’s next concert, classical guitarist Sharon Isbin will perform Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto De Aranjuez” and Antonio Vivaldi’s “Guitar Concerto RV93 in D Major” during “The Best of Classical Guitar” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16, 2019.

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