Maryville College again offers Handel's ‘Messiah' to community

Nov. 22, 2005
Karen B. Eldridge, Director of News and Public Information

What was once an annual Christmas tradition in Blount County for more than 50 years will be performed again at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 5, in Maryville College's Wilson Chapel.

Members of the Maryville College Community Chorus, the Maryville College Concert Choir and the Orchestra at Maryville College – 185 people strong – will join together to perform Georg Friederich Handel's musical masterpiece, "Messiah."

Choral conductor Stacey Wilner will direct the 125 vocalists and 60 musicians who have been preparing for this major musical event for more than three months.

"Messiah," first performed in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742, is considered the most popular and recognized oratorio in history. The text is in the words of the Bible with music composed to carry the various moods and meanings. In its entirety, "Messiah" includes three parts: the prophecy and the announcements of the Messiah's coming; His life, death and resurrection; and meaning and results.

Audience goers for the Dec. 5 event can expect to hear the first section of the composition, including the familiar "For Unto Us a Child is Born," "Glory to God" and "Hallelujah!" Soloists, in order of appearance, will be: Greg Brakebill, Burt Rosevear, Laura Atkinson, Lyn Hollis, Amanda Bacon, Shelley Maddox, Brenda Luggie, Joa Jacks and Amanda Peavyhouse.

"As with all the great artistic masterpieces, the world is a better place with each generation that discovers Handel's message in ‘Messiah.' It is an honor to be a part of a tradition that has such history and meaning for both the Maryville College community and the world at large," Wilner said. "The coming together of 185 musicians - alumni, adults from the community, and students of all ages, who in their youth are just beginning to experience the beauty and depth of this work, is indeed a humbling experience. It is so reflective of how we are all in this together, the experienced leading the young as we learn about Handel's music, and more importantly, as we learn about the meaning of life itself."

The performance history of "Messiah" at Maryville College dates back to 1932, when Frances Henry, a voice instructor and choir director at the College, organized an "oratorical society" of almost 100 singers from the town and College to perform Handel's work. From 1934 until the mid 1980s, it was performed every year at the College and thus became a Christmas tradition for people on campus and in the Blount County community.

It was last performed in 2001.

Orchestra performs first

From 6:50 until 7:20 p.m., members of the Orchestra's Christmas chamber ensemble quintet will perform in the chapel's narthex. Members of the quintet are flutist Karen McLeod, clarinetist Jan Jenkins, oboist Marina Jaffe, bassoonist Marsha Layman French horn player Marcay Dickens.

The Orchestra, under the direction of Bill Robinson, will open the first half of the program with Thor Johnson's arrangement of the "Overture" from Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks," first performed in London in 1749. Following this will be "Glorious Sounds of Christmas," a medley of seasonal favorites arranged by Dwight Gufstafson. "Adeste Fidelis," a modern orchestral arrangement of "O Come All Ye Faithful" by John Francis Wade, will follow.

Robinson will conclude this first portion of the concert with the tuneful and spirited "March of the Toys" from Victor Herbert's Operetta "Babes in Toyland," first performed in 1903.

Toys collected at door

The cost of admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors (60 and over), and free to students 18 years of age and under. Maryville College students, staff and faculty are also admitted without charge if they show their College ID.

Free admission will be offered to those who bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the Blount County Toys for Tots drive. Debbie Gilliam of the Junior Service League will be collecting toys at the door.

The toy drive is an appropriate tie-in with "Messiah," according to Wilner.

"It was originally written to benefit an orphanage in Dublin," she said. "During Handel's lifetime, all the performances of the work were done to raise money for various charities. Handel never accepted any monies for ‘Messiah,' even when he was in personal need."

Members of the College's American Chemical Society will sell baked delicacies during intermission.

For ticket information, contact Genevieve Michael at 865.273.8871 or

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.