Benefit Concert of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ Unites Andover Community

With the rapid trills of strings, brass, and the organ echoing one another, the baritone, tenor, and soprano voices flowed, alternated, and faded into one another, filling the chapel with fast-paced choir music.

The performance of Handel’s oratorio, “Messiah,” conducted by Christopher Walter, Instructor of Music, was held at the Cochran Chapel last Friday. The performance featured musicians from off campus, including soloists Barbara Kilduff, Omar Najmi, Krista River and Dana Whiteside and the Andover Community Chorus. Andover’s own Chamber Orchestra performed the orchestral parts of the oratorio. The concert was intended to raise funds for charity groups like Neighbors in Need and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“The tradition of offering a performance of ‘Messiah’ as a benefit concert for the community has a long history,” wrote Mr. Walter in an email to The Phillipian, “Mr. William Thomas, who led the music department for many years, began the tradition in the mid-’80s. I took it over about 10 years ago after he retired. Several of the singers have sung in the group for over 20 years, and that core group has grown to about 60 members over time. They, in turn, attract numerous singers from near and far to join them.”

As the soloists and the Andover Community Choir group visited from off campus, student musicians were given the opportunity to collaborate with professionals in their performance.

“I wanted to perform for ‘Messiah’ because it’s such a powerful oratorio and is performed by the music community that I don’t always have a chance to meet or work with,” said Jonathan Lin ’19, in an email to The Phillipian. “I think this event is very important because it brings together such a large community to make amazing music.”

As the two-hour-long piece ended with a extended note from the soprano soloists and the humming of the timpani, the audience rose to applaud for the performers. Audience member Amelia Meyer ’21 said that the performance was tear-inducing and especially commended the performance of Dana Whiteside, who was the bass-baritone.

“To me, [Handel’s ‘Messiah’] was a place where I came to cry and I did cry. I left that night, and there were a lot of older people there and a lot of families supporting. I helped hold the door open for a couple of people [when I left], and they said ‘Thank you.’ Those were some very cheery experiences, and very joyous,” said Meyer.