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

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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid