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posted: 12/6/2016 2:21 PM

Hallelujah! Singalong 'Messiahs' in the Fox Valley

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  • Voices in Harmony will perform a singalong version of Handel's "Messiah" on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.

    Voices in Harmony will perform a singalong version of Handel's "Messiah" on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.
    Courtesy of Voices in Harmony

  • George Frideric Handel composed "Messiah" in 1742.

    George Frideric Handel composed "Messiah" in 1742.

  • Fox Valley Orchestra and Chorus invites you to sing along with Handel's beloved "Messiah" on Sunday, Dec. 18, in Batavia.

    Fox Valley Orchestra and Chorus invites you to sing along with Handel's beloved "Messiah" on Sunday, Dec. 18, in Batavia.
    Courtesy of Fox Valley Orchestra and Chorus

 
By Stefanie Dell’Aringa
Daily Herald correspondent

Although it was composed 275 years ago, Handel's "Messiah" continues to draw audiences with its 53 movements including the well-known Hallelujah chorus.

Each Christmas season, many churches and theaters present singalong "Messiahs," and this year will be no exception.

Voices in Harmony

In Crystal Lake, Sing-Along "Messiah," featuring the 50-member Voices in Harmony group, will take place Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Raue Center for the Arts. The Voices in Harmony group was formed 30 years ago, and will take the stage at 4 p.m. accompanied by a full orchestra, 15 choral singers from McHenry County College, and featured soloists including soprano Clarissa Reis, a Crystal Lake native who is making her debut performance.

"This is sort of a homecoming for her," said artistic director Steve Szalaj of Crystal Lake.

The "Messiah" oratorio is an inspiring retelling of the life of Christ through song.

"Anyone who has ever sung in a chorus has undoubtedly sung parts of this piece," he said. "It is about the birth and resurrection of Jesus and it's told only with Bible verses."

Those who attend the performance don't necessarily have to sing. They can choose to sit and listen, or partially participate. Each year, about 300 people fill the seats at the Raue Center for the Arts to join in the awe-inspiring musical performance.

The event moves in and out of choruses, solo performances and orchestra numbers.

"It's not just constant choral music, but a lot of great variety as you go through the piece and the telling of the story," Szalaj said.

Though many movements may be new to attendees, the Hallelujah chorus is recognizable to just about everyone, Szalaj said.

"You can hear the first four notes and know what that piece is," Szalaj said. "Handel's 'Messiah' has woven itself into our holiday traditions in this country and all around the world."

To add to the experience, there will be projections of beautiful calligraphy text created by Tyndale published calligraphy artist Timothy Botts.

"It adds another layer to the experience," Szalaj said. "You have this visual aspect that makes it a multimedia experience, and it's a beautiful presentation of what is being sung."

Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors at the Raue box office. Call (815) 356-9212 for more information.

Fox Valley Orchestra and Chorus

Meanwhile, at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre in Batavia, the Aurora-based Fox Valley Orchestra and Chorus will present its sixth annual Sing-Along "Messiah" at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18. The FVO will perform the Christmas portion, Part 1 of the "Messiah," with a program running time that will last about an hour. The audience will warm up with some Christmas carols and then launch into the "Messiah." Choral scores will be sold at the door for $10, but attendees are invited to bring their own scores if they have them. Seating is by section.

Lisa Fredenburgh, 52, of Lombard, who serves as chorus master for the FVO, is conducting the performance.

"We have hired soloists who are fantastic," she said. "I'll be making sure the soloists and the choir all stays together."

Fredenburgh, who chairs the music department at Aurora University, has been singing "Messiah" since she was 16, and called "Messiah" a "great tradition." She said last year's event drew about 400 people.

"The auditorium seats 800, so there's room for more," Fredenburgh said. "We'd love to have a full house."

Many people enjoy the camaraderie of singing together with strangers. The participation aspect is what makes Messiah special, according to Fredenburgh.

"You are singing along to very uplifting music together with a bunch of people you don't know," she said. "There's something beautiful about just coming together because we're all humans. I think we need that."

Soloists performing in "Messiah" include soprano Michelle Areyzaga, originally from Aurora; mezzo soprano Martha Kasten, originally from Elmhurst; tenor Stephen Cannon; and bass singer Aaron Wardell.

"All four of them are noted soloists in the Chicagoland area," Fredenburgh said.

Tickets are $8 online, or $10 at the door. Parking is free.

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