Spirit of the Holidays Comes Alive at Annual “Messiah” Performance

Audience members rose from their seats to join the Andover Community Chorus in singing the iconic melody of “Hallelujah” during Andover’s 27th annual performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”

“Hallelujah” closes the second part of Handel’s oratorio. The tradition of audience members standing up to sing “Hallelujah” dates back to 1743, when King George II of England rose during the first-ever performance of “Messiah” in London, obliging the rest of the audience to rise as well.

Members of the Andover Community Chorus were joined by Andover Chamber Players and featured soloists, Barbara Kilduff-O’Farrell, Eric Christopher Perry, Donald Wilkinson, all Adjunct Instructors in Music, and Margaret Lias, a local singer, for the performance of “Messiah” in Cochran Chapel on Friday night. Directed by Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music, the performance was used to collect funds and food items to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Neighbors in Need Food Pantry.

“[‘Messiah’] is a tradition that we’ve been continuing for the past 30 years, and every year it’s a treat,” said Walter. “We do the whole thing in about two rehearsals, but somehow it gets together. And everybody loves the music so much. The spirit of Handel really carries the whole thing through.”

Composed in 1741, “Messiah” consists of three parts based on text from the New and Old Testaments. The opening movement describes the prophecy and birth of the Messiah, Jesus, while the second and third parts follow his death and resurrection.

Part I opens with strings and oboes playing in unison. The soloists join in, transforming the tone from somber to bright and promising. Part II returns to a bleak mood before concluding with the invigorating “Hallelujah” chorus. Strings and woodwinds plays out the main melody of the piece, while trumpets articulate the end of lines and joyfully lead the entire chamber orchestra forward. Part III highlights the trumpets again, as they play alluring calls that oppose the solemn notes of the timpani, which convey Jesus’s anguish.

“I wouldn’t know it’s the holiday season without singing this,” said Daniel Malis ’76, a resident of Cambridge, Mass. “It reminds people that Christmas is about caring about people and appreciating the little miracles in life.”

“Use any word you want: it was awesome,” added Bryan McGuiggin ’15, a harpsichord player in Andover Chamber Players. “I think it’s also great that [Andover] can reach out a little bit into the surrounding areas and get people to participate in something that is totally universal and wonderful.”