Shippensburg University’s concert choir and orchestra will come together to perform the oratorio, “Messiah,” by George Frideric Handel on Nov. 18, in the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.
The performance will be a challenge for the two SU musical groups, which came together in 2016 to perform Haydn’s “Mass in a Time of War.”
When it came time to decide what work on which to collaborate, Elizabeth Lins Shoenfelt, director of SU’s choir and Madrigal singers said Handel’s “Messiah” was a natural choice.
“It was life-changing for many of our student musicians, and we wanted the opportunity to offer that again,” Shoenfelt said. “Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is one of the most widely performed and iconic works in history, so it was a natural choice for us to do this together.”
It was also chosen because it has not been done by students at SU before, and is a work that Mark Hartman, SU professor and director of orchestra, feels students should be familiar with.
“Students need to know some of these classic pieces, and it’s just a great experience for everybody,” Hartman said.
In preparation for such a large performance, the students and professionals have been practicing since the beginning of the fall semester. In addition to the students in Concert Choir, other singers that Hartman knows in the Shippensburg community will be joining in the performance, for a total of about 67 people in the choir.
The orchestra will consist of student members and professionals from Dickinson College, as well as members of the Shippensburg and Chambersburg communities.
Handel’s “Messiah” will deal largely with string players, although it will also be accompanied by the timpani in selected sections.
Shoenfelt will be the soprano soloist for the performance, SU student James Barciz is the bass soloist and Hartman will be conducting.
“We get this thing where we have this combination of people from different slices of life come together and do this concert,” Hartman said.
Orchestra president Ali Laughman said the practices were different than normal because of having to adjust to working with the choir but not actually getting to work with them in person until days before the concert.
“I think the thing for me that’s been pretty cool preparing for all of this is hearing all the different parts that go into it, because in Handel’s “Messiah” for most of it, the violas could be playing one rhythm and the first violins and the cellos could be playing completely different things,” Laughman said. “It’s just cool to hear how everything goes together, and to kind of think about what Handel was really thinking when he was splicing all these melodies together with the main theme.”
Junior Lara Russell, who is the librarian for concert choir, is looking forward to performing with the orchestra because it shows what SU’s music groups have to offer.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to show off collectively how great the music groups here at Ship are. It presents a unique opportunity to show how capable we are for higher difficulty music,” Russell said.
For Shoenfelt, she is excited to see and hear the student’s reactions to practicing with orchestra and performing the concert itself.
“I think this is going to be something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” Shoenfelt said. “I am especially excited because not only did I get to prepare the choir, but at the concert I have the privilege of stepping into the role of soloist, so I get to work in my own art as well.”
“I am looking forward to the hope that we get a really wonderful blend between the choir and orchestra working together,” Hartman said. “I’m hoping that we have people that just get really excited and go ‘man I didn’t know this was such a great piece.’”
The concert is free to the public, and will take place in Luhrs on Nov. 18, at 3 p.m.