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updated: 12/6/2011 10:55 AM

Sing along with 'Messiah' in Batavia

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Researchers recently discovered that community singing such as caroling or a "Messiah" singalong is not just good for the soul; it's also good for your heart.

In the study, lead Harvard researcher, Nina Niu, reported the case of a woman who was able to lower her blood pressure 20 points by singing six hymns.

Had I been included in the study, I would have deflated those findings faster than a pin-pricked blood pressure cuff.

The last time, I sang in a do-it-yourself "Messiah" was over 30 years ago at a community event at the United Methodist Church. I was asked to sing the alto solos and felt honored to join the late Earl Marks, who had a beautiful tenor voice; and then-superintendent Jim Clark, who surprised everyone with his big bass voice.

John Williams, orchestra director at the high school, conducted the community orchestra.

I had done the alto solos numerous times and immediately started practicing the difficult runs in "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion." Our dress rehearsal went well, but when the church filled to standing room only, I felt my blood pressure rumble upward. After the recitative "Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive," I could feel the movement of blood surging faster and pumping harder in my veins. The first run was clear and steady and my confidence overtook my focus. I jumped in a note early on the second run and knew immediately because my blood pressure hit seismographic proportions.

Williams quickly sped up the orchestra to compensate for my mistake. The orchestra continued at a fast tempo and I sped through the next run so quickly that my blood pressure went to the top of the Richter scale.

I'm not sure if anyone in the audience ever knew, unless they saw my face turn from the red of embarrassment to the blue of singing without taking a breath.

Judging from the sweat that appeared on Williams' brow, I am pretty sure that his blood pressure was experiencing after shocks.

By the time I sang "He Shall Feed His Flock," I was back to 120 over 80.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, Handel's "Do It Yourself" Messiah returns to Batavia, as a Supporting Theatre Arts for a Greater Education (S.T.A.G.E.) fundraiser at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre, 1201 Main St.

Leading the chorus will be Jeff Hunt, director for the St. Charles Singers, the professional chamber choir based out of St. Charles.

Hunt, who is on the faculty at Elgin Community College, is one of those rare directors who isn't just musically gifted in his interpretation of the compositions he directs, he feels the music in his soul. You see it in his direction, making it a joy to sing for him.

Professional musician Steven Eaklor will accompany the "Messiah" on the organ, furnished by Hammond Suzuki USA.

Four members from the St. Charles Singers will be taking the solo parts. Ingrid Burrichter, soprano; Debby Wilder, alto; Gregor King, tenor and Antonio Quaranta, baritone. Members of the audience will join in on the chorus parts culminating with the "Hallelujah Chorus," considered to be one of the finest chorals works ever written.

You don't have to be an accomplished singer to sing in the chorus. In fact you don't need to sing at all. You can just go and listen.

There will be some who will struggle reading their parts and others who will sail through the choruses without looking at the music. I do know one thing. When everyone rises to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus," the music will fill your spirit and overwhelm you with the majesty of Handel's most famous composition.

And yes, singing it together with members of our community might do your heart good and take a point or two off your blood pressure.

Tickets are $14-15. Visit bataviaSTAGE.org for details.

• Editor's note: Gregor King of the St. Charles Singers is the husband of Daily Herald columnist Sammi King.

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