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Notre Dame Chorale Ushers In Christmas Season With Handel’s Messiah

Observer Scene | Wednesday, December 3, 2008

As the spirit of Christmas begins to blanket campus, one of Notre Dame’s most diverse vocal groups offers a limited time performance of classical holiday celebration. This weekend, the Notre Dame Chorale ushers in the Christmas season with their performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”

Composed of fifty-five members, both men and women, the Chorale is the official concert choir of the University. With student participants ranging in age from freshmen to graduate students, the ensemble is one of the most diverse on campus. Under the direction of Dr. Alexander Blachly, the Chorale focuses on the vocal compositions ranging from the Renaissance period to modern times.

The vocal company is accompanied by Notre Dame’s Chamber Orchestra. This select ensemble feature one or two advanced musicians at each orchestral instrument. This weekend, the orchestra will offer its representation of “The Messiah” to its patrons.

The piece that the Chorale will perform on Friday and Saturday is Handel’s most renowned masterpiece. It was composed in the summer of 1741, during the Baroque period. The German-born composer wrote the oratorio (a musical piece comprised of vocal and orchestral arrangements) in the image of a libretto by Charles Jennens.

“The Messiah” documents the life and the Christian significance of Jesus Christ, focusing especially on the passion. Though the oratorio was written during the Catholic season of Lent, it has become tradition to perform Handel’s masterpiece during Advent.

“The Messiah” is divided into three portions, each focusing on a separate aspect of Christ’s life. The first portion describes the traditional Advent and Christmas stories. The second depicts the passion, resurrection, ascension and spread of Jesus’ word. Finally, the oratorio is a summation of the Revelation of St. John.

The Notre Dame Chorale has chosen about fifteen separate songs from “The Messiah” to perform. The performance will last about and hour and a half, culminating with the celebrated “Hallelujah” chorus. This piece concludes the second of the three parts of the oratorio, but has been chosen to close the Chorale’s performance because of its fame.

The Chorale enthusiastically presents this show as an ideal introduction into the Christmas season. Featuring multiple student solos, the concert appears to be an excellent showcase of musical expertise. “Singing Handel’s ‘Messiah’ puts me in high Christmas spirits,” sophomore Chorale member Steve Santay said. “There are few feelings that can compare to when you hear the Chorale singing the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus.”

A sellout is expected for the second of the Chorale’s three annual concerts. Though the music comes first, and the recognition of the club’s determination and talent is paramount, the ticket sales are also of notable concern to the vocal group.

Revenue from ticket purchases funds the Chorale’s domestic and international tours. Having completed a summer tour of New Zealand and Hawaii, the Chorale is currently planning their annual winter break tour. This year, the club will travel to the Southern and Eastern United States, stopping in Memphis, St. Louis, Washington D.C., and Atlanta for performances.

The Chorale, accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra, performs at 8:00 p.m. on both nights in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased online, at the box office or by calling 574-631-2800. Prices are $3 for students, $8 for staff and $10 for adults.

Contact Patrick Griffin at pgriffi3@nd.edu.