Handel’s Messiah Sing-In

Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 7:00 pm Virtual Sing-In Join Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director and guest conductors for the 53rd annual Messiah Sing-In, which will be presented virtually on National Chorale’s YouTube page.

We welcome you to the 53rd Annual Messiah Sing-In presented to you VIRTUALLY this year! As the world turned on March 13, we all still thought that by Christmas we would be back in a regular routine but the virus had different plans. Now 10 months later we are still fighting the war but hopefully, we will turn the corner soon. In the meantime, we will sing!

The National Chorale Messiah Sing-In at Lincoln Center is one of the biggest Holiday musical events in New York City and has become an annual Holiday favorite.

The Sing-In audience-chorus includes 3,000 singers of all backgrounds who come from throughout New York City, the greater New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area, across the United States and from countries around the world. It includes choral singers who sing in church and temple choirs, community choral organizations, high school, college and alumni choruses, and many vocal music lovers who want to spend this one special evening singing and being surrounded by thousands of voices, all singing Handel’s great choral masterpiece together.

The audience is the chorus! Rather than being seated in block SATB sections, the audience is seated “scrambled” so that attending choral groups and participating singers can sit with those whom they came with. Each participant brings a Messiah vocal score and sings along, filling the hall with a glorious tapestry of voices!

There are 4 splendid professional soloists singing some of the best-known solos and providing additional musical inspiration. Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director of the National Chorale and the Sing-In, is the host for the performance.

The Messiah Sing-In was conceived and developed in 1967 by Mr. Josman, the National Chorale's Board, and a group of New York City choral conductors, as a way to celebrate choral singing on a community-wide basis. Everyone agreed that the best way to achieve this was to invite the choral singing community to gather annually for one evening during the holiday season and sing a great choral work in a major concert hall under the shared leadership of a team of prominent choral conductors. The plan attracted the enthusiastic interest of New York’s choral community and the public, and the Messiah Sing-In was born! The first performance took place on Friday evening, December 13, 1967. It was an immediate success and has continued as a joyous, traditional choral community singing event every year since!

The National Chorale has also presented Handel’s Messiah Sing-In in Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, Rochester, NY, Phoenix, Tulsa, Lawrence, WI, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Amphitheater and the Ocean Grove Auditorium, NJ.

George Frideric Handel:
A Brief Biography of the Man and the Early Days of Messiah

Beethoven thought Handel the greatest of all his predecessors; he once said, "I would bare my head and kneel at his grave."

George Frideric Handel was born on a cold February day in 1685, deep in the heart of Germany. His father was a prominent and successful barber-surgeon for the local duke and had determined early on that young George would study civil law.

But George was drawn to things more artistic, especially more musical. He was intrigued by instruments, the sounds they could make and the feelings they could evoke. His practical father intervened and forbade him from taking part in what he called "musical nonsense."

That wasn't about to stop the determined little youngster. By some unknown means, George was able to get a small clavichord and smuggle it to a tiny room at the top of the house. Then, at night, while the rest of the family was asleep, George would silently creep up to the room and play music, ever so quietly, late into the night. It was there that Handel discovered the magic of music.

It came as a complete surprise to family and friends at church one day when the eight-year-old climbed up on the organ bench and began to play the postlude. Everyone was shocked, especially his father, who had no idea his son was so gifted. Even so, his father sternly reminded son that his destiny was for something more practical than music.

Eventually, Handel enrolled in law school according to his father's wishes, but the musical pull was too much. Soon, he left the confines of the classroom and headed out on the road. He traveled from city to city, learning what he could about each area's musical styles and gifts before he finally settled in London in 1711 at age 26. There his operas and oratorios gained wide acceptance and Handel became an established part of English music and society circles.

Difficult Times

By the 1730s, British audiences had grown tired of operas sung in German or Italian and preferred comedic performances in English. This was good for Handel, who struggled to keep his creditors away, and led him to push himself to the limit by composing four operas within the same year.

As a result, Handel suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right arm. The doctor who treated him said, “We may save the man—but the musician is lost forever. It seems to me that his brain has been permanently injured.”

But Handel refused to give up and surprised everyone when he miraculously recovered his strength and declared, “I have come back from Hades.”

Messiah and Its Legacy

In 1741, swimming in debt and out of favor as a composer, Handel received a libretto from Charles Jennens, a poet with whom he had worked previously. Using scripture references, the libretto detailed the life of Jesus Christ from His birth and ministry to His crucifixion and resurrection. On August 22, 56-year-old Handel sequestered himself in his London home and began to compose music to the biblical texts heralding the life of Jesus Christ. In just 23 days he completed a 260-page oratorio. He titled the massive work Messiah.

Handel told the sponsors of the premier performance of Messiah in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742, that the proceeds from the performance should be donated to prisoners, orphans and the sick. “I have myself been a very sick man, and am now cured,” he said. “I was prisoner and have been set free.”

The performance received rave reviews and exceeded expectations, raising 400 pounds and freeing 142 men from debtors’ prison. The charity sponsors, hoping to squeeze in additional paying patrons, had asked the ladies to refrain from wearing hoops under their skirts and encouraged men to leave their swords at home.

Although the work was well received in Dublin, it was not a success in London, where audiences grappled with a sacred work being staged in theaters. In 1749, it was another charity performance to assist with the completion of London Foundling Hospital for abandoned infants and children that began a series of concerts that once again brought Messiah to public audiences with renewed appreciation. Easter-time performances of Messiah continued each year at the Foundling Hospital until the 1770s, and Handel conducted or attended every one of them until his death in 1759.

Some 40 years after Messiah’s premiere, English musicologist Charles Burney wrote, “This great work has been heard in all parts of the kingdom with increasing reverence and delight; it has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan and enriched succeeding managers of the oratorios, more than any single production in this or any other country.”

Joining us to sing for this virtual event are:

Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, New York
Ramón Bryant Braxton, Conductor

Santander Musical Waves- A Cappella; Don Bosco; Atalaya Voces; R.S. Tenis La Magdalena; Santander, Spain,
Manuel Galán Cuesta, Conductor

Venite Cantemus Choir, Paris, France
Gildas Harnois, Conductor

Wagner College, Summit Chorale, St. Joseph's Church and School
Thomas Juneau, Conductor

Ember of School Cantorum on Hudson
Deborah Simpkin King, Conductor

National Chorale,
Everett McCorvey, Artistic Director and Conductor

Camerata Antiqua de Curitiba, Parana, Brazil
Bart Naessens, Conductor

Professional Performing Arts School Choir
Vagarshak Ohanyan, Principal Conductor

The Orpheus Club Men's Chorus, Ridgewood, NJ; Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, NYC; Grace United Methodist Church, Wyckoff, NJ; Voices of Praise, Waldwick, NJ; Livingston NJ Public Schools; Molloy College, Rockville Center, NY; West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, NJ; NJ Choral Society; Yorktown United Methodist Church, Yorktown Heights, NY
John J. Palatucci, Conductor

Ocean Grove Great Auditorium Choir, Morris Choral Society, Seton Hall University Chorus and the Taghkanic Chorale,
Jason Tramm, Conductor

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah
Dr. Mack Wilberg, Music Director and Conductor

Meet our Guests:

James D. Wetzel is the Director of Music and Organist of the Parish of Saint Vincent Ferrer and Saint Catherine of Siena on Manhattan’s Upper East Side where he directs the professional Schola Cantorum in over 70 services annually.  James served from 2010-2015 as the Organist and Choirmaster of midtown’s Church of Saint Agnes and from 2011-2016 was an adjunct lecturer in Hunter College’s music department.  Since 2010, he has also been the Assistant Conductor for the Greenwich Choral Society in Connecticut.  Additionally, he holds a post as Assisting Organist at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine where he formerly served as Organ Scholar under Bruce Neswick.

Mr. Wetzel is active as an organist and continuo player, having performed at the Berkshire Choral Festival and with the Collegiate Chorale, the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s, the American Symphony Orchestra, the American Classical Orchestra, the National Chorale, and the Paul Winter Consort. He is the sub-dean and chairman of the program committee of the New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, a board member of the Catholic Artists Society, and a member of the New York Purgatorial Society and the Society for Catholic Liturgy.

Born in Pittsburgh, James earned a bachelor’s degree in organ performance from The Juilliard School where he studied with Paul Jacobs and was the first person ever to graduate with a master’s degree and a professional studies certificate in choral conducting from Manhattan School of Music under Kent Tritle.  He also studied privately with Donald K. Fellows and Robert Page and spent a year reading Early Christianity and Apologetics at Columbia University.
Hailed for her “luminous tones” and “lush voice,” Brittany Renee amazes audiences with her finesse and shimmering stage presence.”  In 2019-2020 Brittany traveled to Turin, Italy to reprise the role of Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess at the Teatro Regio Torino and at the Magnetic Opera Festival in Elba, Italy. Later she was honored to join the 2019-2020 season as a featured soloist at The Metropolitan Opera in their historic production of Porgy & Bess, which has been nominated for three Grammy Awards! She also returned to Opera Orlando to debut the role of the Countess in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro where she “excellently captured and conveyed regal sorrow.” - Orlando Sentinel

Due to COVID-19, Brittany’s anticipated 2020 debuts such as her return to The Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Opera San Jose, her role debut of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, a new concept opera with Out of the Box Opera in Minnesota, and a performance debut on Broadway were all postponed to later dates. Despite the cancellations Brittany welcomed the new and innovative virtual performances. Described by the Wall Street Journal as “an ingenious project” Brittany was blessed to stretch her contemporary wings in a virtual world premiere opera series Tales from a Safe Distance with Decameron Opera. Through her voice she brought to life the illustrated role of BOSS in Resonance Works SourDough: Rise Up.  Later in the fall, in a new partnership with The Hampsong Foundation and the streaming platform IDAGIO, She headlined the concert series Feel the Spirit, which is dedicated to the study, preservation, and performance of the Negro Spiritual.  To close out this season she will return once again as the Soprano Soloist with the National Chorale at Lincoln Center in their virtual presentation of Handel's Messiah.

Additional international debuts have included her performances at the Semperoper Dresden, the Deutsches Theater München, The Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Italy, and Opera on the Avalon in Canada. Other national appearances have included performances with Knoxville Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Salt Marsh Opera, Piedmont Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Crested Butte Music Festival, The Handel Choir of Baltimore, Opera Theatre of the Rockies, and the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra.

Concert engagements include performances as a guest artist and model representing the designer Pyer Moss at the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Gala, collaborator and jazz soloist with the Minneapolis based group VOXSPEX, featured artist with the Wynton Marsalis’ U.S. Tour of the Abyssinian Mass with Chorale Le Chateau and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, guest artist with the The Guelph Symphony Orchestra, appearances with the critically acclaimed American Spiritual Ensemble, and tour with the Siena Chamber Orchestra in Italy. As a frequent recitalist, Brittany has performed in her hometown at the University of Minnesota’s Monday Guest Artist Recital Series at the Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall and had the privilege to conduct her own masterclass with the students.  

Brittany’s prestigious awards include, Senior Grand Prize Winner: Young Patronesses of the Opera, 3rd Place and Audience Favorite: Harlem Opera Theater Competition, 2nd Place and Scholarship Recipient: The Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition Award, Rosalind Jackson Memorial Award: Crested Butte Music Festival, The Miriam Goodman Award: Chautauqua Opera and Regional Finalist: Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. 
A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Competition’s New York District, Jessica Grigg was a Finalist in the  National Opera Association Competition, a finalist in the New York City NATS competition and a winner of the Operafest NH! Competition.

This spring, Jessica debuts with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and she recently joined maestro James Meader with DCINY at Carnegie Hall for a concert of Dan Forrest'sJubilate Deo.  She made her debut with Salt Marsh Opera in Gianni Schicchi and  with DCINY in Vivaldi's Gloria.Jessica toured the role of Isabella in Gotham Chamber Opera’s production of D. Catan’s, Rappaccini’s Daughter, returned to Teatro Grattacielo in Siberia, and was the alto soloist in Opera Naples’ semi-staged production of Mendelssohn’s Elijah

In past seasons Jessica performed the role of Carmen with Julius Rudel and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in a program of French Opera. This followed her debut with Opera Illinois as Maddalena in their production of Rigolettoand her debut with Teatro Grattacielo as Anna in Alfano’s Risurezzioneat Alice Tully Hall.  Jessica’s first Suzuki was with the Little Opera Company of New Jersey following a recital for the Middlebury Performing Arts Series.  She has appeared as Maddalena in Rigolettowith the Lyric Orchestra of New Jersey, New Jersey Verismo Opera and with Opera Theatre of Connecticut.  With Opera North, Stephen Fox conducted Jessica as Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, as part of a Russian Romantics Concert Series and she sang the Third Lady in Die Zauberflöteand Edith in The Pirates of Penzance. She has also performed Count Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with Opera Theatre of Connecticut and Dorabella in Anchorage Opera’s Così fan tutte. She has enjoyed performances with the Little Opera Theatre of New York, Cape Cod Opera as Carmen in a series of concerts,the title role in Orfeowith Five Words in a Line, and concerts with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra Concert Series in Boston and with Opera Providence in Rhode Island.   She also recorded Dag Gabrielsen’s opera All Three Acts of a Sad Playfor New York City Opera’s VOX 2011 Festival.  Jessica was the mezzo soloist in Mozart’s C minor Masswith the Mohawk Choral Society and has performed the Mozart Requiemwith the Washington Bach Consort and J. Reilly Lewis and with Camerata New York.   She was a guest artist in St. Louis’ “Sheldon Hall Gala” featuring Frederica von Stade.

As a performer interested in contemporary compositions, Jessica was the lead in Steven Paulus’ opera Summerin its New York City Premiere with the Center for Contemporary Opera and joined CCO again as Signora Angiolieri in Francis Thorne and J.D. McClatchy’s opera, Mario and the Magician.  Jessica performed with Five Words in a Line in a concert of music by composers Charles Fussell and Stefan Weisman in NYC’s Greenwich House Music Hall and, at the request of the composer, recorded Stephen Aprahamian’s new opera, The Fountain of Youth.  She was asked by composer Jorge Martin to record his song cycle “Of Fathers and Sons” and to premiere his song cycle “A Cuban in Vermont” at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.  Jessica will be Dr. von Zahnd on Dag Gabrielsen’s  recording and film of his new opera The Physicistsbased on Dürrenmatt’s play by the same name.
Praised for the distinctive warmth of his voice, clear diction, and exceptional musicianship, American baritone Keith Harris is captivating audiences in his performances on both operatic and concert stages. This season, Mr. Harris performs the role of Miller in Better Gods Concert with Little Opera Theater of NY, performs as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah with Helena Symphony, Schaunard in La bohéme with Opera Carolina and Toledo Opera, sings at a fundraising event with Annapolis Opera, Carmina Burana with Pacific Northwest Ballet, and joins The Metropolitan Opera for their production of Werther. Last season, he reprised the role of Albert in Werther for his début with The Israeli Opera and performed the role of Marcello in La Boheme with Opera Tampa. He also performed Carmina Burana with the Kirkland Choral Society and in concert with the Bel Canto Festival.
Tenor, Albert Rudolph Lee’s performances have been described as “vocally sumptuous,” “musically distinctive” and even “acrobatically agile.” Having appeared with Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Orchestra, Saint Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, and the Caramoor International Music Festival, Dr. Lee’s recent performances include the tenor solo in Bruckner Te Deum with the Reno Chamber Orchestra, a performance of George Walker’s Lilac’s for Tenor and Orchestra for the opening concert of the African American Art Song Alliance 20th Anniversary Conference, and performances with Cincinnati Opera. In his eighth year on the voice faculty of the University of Nevada, Reno, Dr. Lee’s most recent activities include the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Jackson Symphony, an appearance with Opera Las Vegas in a tribute concert to African American Opera Legends, a feature role in the world premiere of Douglas Buchanan’s opera Bessie and Ma, and appearances with the British classical crossover quartet Vox Fortura.