Westmont Choir and Orchestra prepare for upcoming Messiah tour
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The weekend following Easter, April 7 through 8, the Westmont Choir and members from the Westmont Orchestra will be touring to Los Angeles to perform parts two and three of Handel’s Messiah. The tour will feature soloists from the Westmont Choir as the groups collaborate with choir members from Bel Air Church and St. Peter’s by the Sea Presbyterian Church. Saturday evening the complete Westmont group will rehearse and perform a concert at Bel Air Church then divide to participate in services at both Bel Air and St. Peter’s. The orchestra and choir will then reunite Sunday evening for a final concert at St. Peter’s by the Sea Presbyterian Church.
While the Westmont Music Program has performed selections from the first part of Messiah in the past, this will be the first exhibition of Messiah parts two and three. According to Music Department Chair Dr. Michael Shasberger, Westmont presented part one at past Christmas Concerts as it pertains more to the birth of Christ. The second and third parts, on the other hand, are presented much more in the spirit of themes relevant to Easter celebrations. As Dr. Shasberger commented in a recent interview, “It doesn't start like a passion story does [or] read the passion narrative at all. It's mostly Old Testament prophetic courses with an occasional reference to the gospels and the epistles, but mostly it's the effect of Jesus offering redemption and atonement. And then the implications of Jesus’ resurrection and ministry after the crucifixion and ascension. So it gives those things as testimonies rather than a linear story.”
The design of the tour is to bring about a sense of community in light of Easter celebrations through collaborations between Westmont musicians and choir members of St. Peter’s and Bel Air Church. As Dr. Shasberger eloquently described, “. . . some of these people will have sung Handel for 40, 50, 60 years and then many times,” rather than the first or fresh “Handel musicians and vocalists” of the Westmont Music Program.
Lilly Huerta of the Westmont choir will be singing the recitative “Then Shall Be Brought to Pass” and the alto part of the duet “Death Where is Thy Sting” for the Messiah tour. In a recent interview about her preparatory experience, Lilly reflected that she was sure to study the scripture of her solo and duet part. The rehearsal process has also granted Lilly an opportunity to explore her vocal range, “I usually sing soprano II parts, so singing a deep, low alto part has been way different. I’ve been feeling like a completely different vocalist when performing in rehearsal.”
For violist Eve Reiner, the sheer expanse of Messiah has guided her individual practice to be intentional and selective. Eve expressed her enjoyment of playing with both instruments and vocals and her excitement for the experience of the tour itself, “I’m most looking forward to spending time and performing music with friends and the general camaraderie that you experience during tours.”
Despite encountering delays due to evacuation, Westmont’s Messiah tour will undoubtedly harbor a sense of community between young and established through the celebrated masterpiece.