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updated: 12/6/2012 3:01 PM

John Heath to lead Do-It-Yourself "Messiah" in Batavia

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  • Retired Batavia High School band director John Heath, shown at an alumni concert at the high school, will lead this year's Do-It-Yourself "Messiah," a fundraiser for STAGE, at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre Sunday, Dec. 9.

    Retired Batavia High School band director John Heath, shown at an alumni concert at the high school, will lead this year's Do-It-Yourself "Messiah," a fundraiser for STAGE, at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre Sunday, Dec. 9.
    Courtesy of Jonathan McLear


In the film "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey goes through the trials and tribulations of dealing with a shortage of funds at the Savings and Loan he manages, only to be redeemed in the end by the generosity of those he has helped over the years.

The Tri-Cities are filled with wonderful people, the kind who have shown time and again that community is all about giving and sharing.

When the folks at STAGE, the Batavia support group for theater in the schools, were looking to repeat the "'Do It Yourself' Messiah" this year, they couldn't find the funding and considered canceling the event. Then Dan Ross of Allstate Insurance offered to help. Ross is a Geneva businessman.

"There may be rivalry between the (Geneva High School) Vikings and the (Batavia High School) Bulldogs, but as a small-business owner, I have clients throughout the Fox Valley," Ross said. "When I heard that this event might not take place because of lack of funding, I decided to offer to help."

Undoubtedly, Dan Ross is a frustrated tenor or bass who sang Handel's magnificent work in college.

"Nope," he said. "Can't sing a note. In fact, I have been told it's better when I don't sing."

Not only did Ross get involved, he got others to donate as well. Dennis Miltner of TEKBild came on board as well as two other anonymous donors.

"With these donations and our program sponsors, we were able to put the program on," said former STAGE president Steve Burrichter. "And this year's event will be better than ever."

It's a wonderful life when people step forward to help.

Having a director on stage who loves the music and loves the people singing it, is an important part of making a do-it-yourself "Messiah" successful. Enter Batavia's own music man, retired BHS band director John Heath. He agreed to take on the important role. Many people don't realize that Heath is not only an extraordinary director and instrumentalist but also an accomplished vocalist.

He will feel the pain when the altos struggle with a six measure run. He will understand when the sopranos attempt notes that fly above the musical staff. Like Jeff Hunt, last year's exemplary director, he will make everyone feel at ease.

And when the singers in the audience join in for the Hallelujah Chorus, John Heath will be filled with emotion just as all of us were last year.

It's a wonderful life when people take on the task of leading others.

New to the stage this year is a string quintet made up of members from the Metropolis Symphony, a professional orchestra that plays throughout Chicagoland. Another new addition is organist Lee Guinty, an organ major from the prestigious Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati.

When John Heath suggested it might be fun to include some carols for the group to sing, Guinty offered to bring a glorious arrangement of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," featuring a soprano descant.

At last years's event we all enjoyed the performances of the four soloists from the St. Charles Singers: Ingrid Burrichter, soprano; Debby Wilder, alto; Gregor King, tenor; and Antonio Quaranta, baritone.

It's a wonderful life when people share their talents with others.

For me, the Hallelujah Chorus was the highlight of the evening last year. To be surrounded by hundreds of voices singing such a magnificent piece is awe inspiring.

I think George Frederic Handel would have enjoyed the fact that ordinary people come together each year to sing his "Messiah." He wrote it at a time when illiteracy was commonplace and copies of the Bible were rare. He wrote this work, which has its text taken from the Bible, to tell the stories of the Bible through music.

It's a wonderful life when the joy of music, written over 200 years ago, is celebrated by so many.

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