Time for a Community Messiah Performance

MOS will soon hold its 5th Annual Messiah Sing-Along and the approaching event has caused me to think a bit about this whole experience of a “community” Messiah.  I conducted several of these Sing-Alongs back in the 1980s, but hadn’t done another one until The Michael O’Neal Singers began its version several years ago.  From what I’ve been able to discover, the concept of a Messiah Sing-Along caught on in the USA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Certainly there have been really BIG performances of Messiah dating back to the early and mid nineteenth century, but these took place primarily in England.  The Brits loved big choral societies and they really adored singing Messiah with big choirs and big orchestras!  I believe there were even some performances with a thousand singers or more.  There were also unrehearsed performances where the audience served as the chorus, and in Great Britain these were called “scratch Messiahs,” as in cooking from scratch.

The Messiah Sing-Along has now become a very popular event in many American communities, and especially during the Christmas Season there will be hundreds of these celebrations.  What makes them so popular?   I have several thoughts as to why that might be.  One is that Handel’s Messiah is a work that most choral singers have performed.  Another is that during the Holiday Season a Sing-Along provides a wonderful shared experience, whether one comes to participate as an individual or as part of a group.  And finally, I suggest that people enjoy participating in Messiah Sing-Alongs just because they are fun!

What is your most memorable Messiah performance experience?

Showing 3 comments
  • Glenda Sullivan

    Why, the most recent MOS Messiah, of course! Still there was a time in the 70’s when Robert Shaw opened symphony hall .. and the stage … to outsiders for the ASO Messiah Singalong. If one was early enough, singing on stage was an option. The feeling of being on stage, with the ASO orchestra conducted by Robert Shaw was thrilling to me as an amateur. Once, after we had sung Hallelujah — rousing, in tune and in time — Shaw had us sing it one more time, then turned to the audience and thundered ‘If you practiced the whole damn thing could sound like that.” Many of you have heard me tell that story but I can never sing the Messiah without remembering Shaw’s admonition. I am so looking forward to this season’s event. Christmas is not complete wtihout Messiah.

  • Dorothy Clark

    My first Messiah sing-along was as a young accompanist for the Mercer Atlanta Community Singers, the predecessor of the MOS. I had played a few of the choruses before, but to play the whole thing was a phenomenal experience and something I will never forget!

  • Valarie Milazzo

    I have had the privilege of singing the entire oratorio three times so far. It is a glorious experience, not only to immerse yourself in Handel’s music for three hours, but also to hear in the libretto God’s complete plan of salvation through His Son Jesus.

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