News / USA

'Messiah' Holiday Tradition Marks 44th Year

New York's all-inclusive sing-in mixes pros with everyone else

This year’s "Messiah Sing-In" at Lincoln Center was attended by nearly 2,000 people.
This year’s "Messiah Sing-In" at Lincoln Center was attended by nearly 2,000 people.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

The holidays are here, and with them, a crescendo of special music reserved for this season.

But along with “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night” and “Santa Baby,” towers the “Messiah.” Eighteenth century composer George Frederick Handel penned the two-hour choral masterpiece in just under three weeks.

It is performed all around the country, by church, school and community choirs.

In many cases, the audience is invited to sing along. At the 44th annual "Messiah Sing-In” in New York, nearly 2,000 people gathered to sing with professional soloists in a marathon celebration of community and the Christmas spirit.



Lincoln Center’s vast and glittering Avery Fisher Hall is filled nearly to capacity every year for the sing-in.  Accompanied only by an organ, music lovers join their voices with high school and community choruses to bring Handel’s “Messiah” to life.

Each of the 17 chorus sections is conducted by a different well-known conductor, and the solos are sung by well-known professionals. But National Chorale Music Director Martin Josman, who created the first sing-in in 1967 and acts as the evening’s emcee, says that the audience is the true star.  

“The emphasis is on the public that sings," he says. "There are no auditions; there are no rehearsals; there are no requirements for coming to the sing-in. You have to buy your tickets so we can pay the rent. Besides, that, anybody who wants to come can come.”

And come they have, for 44 years. Bruce and Scott Van Hoven have attended the Messiah Sing-Ins regularly for a quarter century.

Most of the "Messiah Sing-In" participants bring their own scores.
Most of the "Messiah Sing-In" participants bring their own scores.

"It’s the greatest piece of choral music ever written and I’ve been doing this since I was 14," says Bruce. "And it’s kind of a family tradition. My grandfather performed in a local production of the Messiah for years, so I am just carrying that on a little bit. We always try to bring some other people for their first time."

"And it just keeps growing and growing every year," Scott says. "It’s a great way to really get the Christmas season going.

Nancy Reid is a sing-In first-timer. She is here with her husband and two friends, both choristers, who told them about the sing-in’s magic. She wants to relive the thrill she felt as a child in Ohio when her parents’ friends invited local musicians and neighbors to their home to sing selections from the Messiah’s choral movements.          

“And we would sing and sing and sing," Reid says. "I don’t read a line of music but I’ve got these melodies emblazoned on my memory from when I was a kid. So we went immediately out and bought a couple of scores for ourselves and we were just saying ‘God help the people in front of us’ because we have very loud voices.”

In other cities that host "Messiah" sing-alongs, the singers are arranged around the venue according to their vocal parts. But Josman says New Yorkers prefer to sing with the people they came with or what they call "scrambled” in choral jargon. That’s good he says, because the sing-in is not a performance, but a community celebration.      

“And people who make music very quickly get to feel at home with others who are in the process," he says. "Whether they be vocalists or instrumentalists, there is a kinship of sharing the musical experience. And also we say, ‘We are in this marvelous hall. Let’s fill this place with glorious sound.’ And we do.”

Well, the truth is, not all the sound is glorious. But that doesn’t bother the professionals.

"I’m someone who believes that if someone goes in and they sing with passion and they really enjoy what they’re doing, music will follow," says professional baritone solist James Bobick. "Everybody is there because they love The Messiah as much as we do and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to share this love of an incredible work. It’s this unique energy."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, "Messiah" brings that joy every Christmas," soprano Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez says.  

Eyes that have been bright for the two hours of near continuous singing tonight manage to light up even more as the organ introduces the “Halleluiah Chorus,” and for the 44th year in a row, the  sing-in singers give the Messiah’s popular climax everything they’ve got.

“Halleluiah” means “praise Him” in ancient Aramaic, but today, it translates into hope and joy in any language.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid