90th Messiah

Handel’s classic kicks off the holidays for many

HANNAH KITTLE The Marietta Times Betsy Guice-Ohse, 15, of Parkersburg, Ruth Heidorn, of Marietta, Sheree Alderman, 60, of Mineral Wells, and Mary Groves, 66, of Marietta, sing in Marietta College's Oratorio Chorus during rehearsal on Monday.

For 90 years, Marietta College’s Oratorio Chorus has been filling large rooms with harmonies and melodies with its annual performance of Baroque composer George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”

“It’s a celebration of the nativity, essentially, and the resurrection,” said Director of Choral Activities at Marietta College Jay Dougherty. “It’s most commonly done during Christmas time.”

New to his position, Dougherty is excited to direct the chorus for the first time and feels it will be a strong performance.

“There are about 55 or so (community) members; we don’t have any students performing — I understand there have been students in the past — I opened it up to the students, but did not require it,” explained Dougherty. “They are going to be a real confident choir; it’s going to be a pretty good performance.”

He added the small-town feel adds to the specialness of the performance and the Oratorio Chorus.

“Marietta is such a small community, small town; being in a small town, small city, small community, when you have something with this kind of history behind it, it gives a reason for the town to come together,” he said. “It gives a sense of community, which is already strong in a town like this.”

Out of the total 53 songs, the chorus will be performing all of them aside from two. Dougherty said the piece is often performed in parts and the community will get a treat to hear the performance in its entirety.

“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season and to hear and experience the full Messiah,” noted Dougherty. “A lot of people will recognize many of the movements, but not a lot have experienced the entire work; it’s high quality stuff.”

He said the chorus will be joined by a professional orchestra and will include several soloists from the area and beyond.

“We have pretty much the same soloists each year, but we have a new tenor, so for many people who are used to coming every year, they will get to hear a new tenor soloist this year,” said Dougherty.

The performance will be at the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption on Sunday at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. and Dougherty said seats go fast.

“It’s usually packs up pretty quick,” he said. “People should arrive early if they want to get a good seat.”

Mary Groves, 66, of Marietta, a member of the Oratorio Chorus, said she is excited to perform once more and they’ve been working very hard to put on a good performance.

“I sing it all week after I’ve had practice on Monday,” said Groves. “It’s just a great piece of music and a good way to start the holidays.”

Groves said they seem to be closer this year and have really enjoyed preparing for the Messiah performance.

“This year has been really special and I don’t know why; it seems like we know each other more,” she said. “It’s really nice to visit with old friends who we’ve been singing with for years.”

Marion Kim, 81, of Marietta, who has been singing with the chorus for 52 years, said it starts the season off right.

“You can’t help but feel an emotional connection,” said Kim. “The place is packed and it starts the Christmas season for a lot of people.”

For Groves, her favorite part of the performance comes at the end when they sing “Amen.”

“I think the amen at the end is probably one of my favorites; it’s beautiful and it just goes on and on,” said Groves. “I enjoy the whole thing, but when we get to the amens, it’s just really special.”

Ruth Heidorn, of Marietta, also a member of the chorus, said she’s been singing with the group for approximately 25 years and is blessed to be able to sing in the performance.

“The rehearsals are good, but the performance is what is delightful because the orchestra is there,” she said. “They have professional soloists and professional musicians in the orchestra … just hearing that all come together is breathtaking.”

Heidorn added they are all gelling well with the new director and look forward to working with him again.

“He really has a talent in bringing out the best in each one of us,” she said. “I am enjoying singing under our new director; he is a very talented, caring, kind man and we all love him.”


If you go

¯What: 90th annual performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah.

¯Where: Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption.

¯When: Sunday at 7 p.m.

¯Who: Marietta College’s Oratorio Chorus.

¯Cost: Free.


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