A rare opportunity is being offered, bringing the spirit of Christmas to Grand Bend. Handel’s Messiah is being performed on the main stage at Huron Country Playhouse to begin the Advent Season on Sunday, December 3.
“We are thrilled to be bringing this wonderful performance to Grand Bend,” says one of the organizers, Carey Eddy, “It is amazing we have this calibre of talent coming to our community.”
The 50-voice London Pro Musica Choir will be joined by four professional soloists, coming to Grand Bend from across the country for this special presentation.
The event is being organized as a fundraiser by the Concert Series Team at Huron Shores United Church, which is undergoing extensive renovations at their 25 Main Street location in Grand Bend. Despite the fact that this is a fundraising event, tickets are only $40. “It’s a very low price for the quality of talent,” Eddy stresses.
London Pro Musica Choir is based in London, with singers from across the area. Two Grand Bend residents are part of the choir: Janice Sinker and Theresa Wallis (Kneale). Sinker is also a member of the choir at Huron Shores United Church. An accomplished pianist and composer, she is a retired music teacher. Wallis is a well-known soloist across Lambton County. Formerly of Watford, she now lives in Grand Bend.
“Whether or not you think Messiah is your ‘cup of tea’, it’s something you need to see and hear at least once in your life,” Wallis says. She is confident that it is such a grand work, it will win over anyone who might be skeptical. “I hope that everyone in the area will take advantage of this opportunity to experience Messiah, since it is being performed locally and at a reasonable price,” she adds.
Sinker has been with the London Pro Musica Choir for seven years and enjoys the sound of 50 voices singing together. “When things go just right, you can feel a musical high from the richness of the harmonies,” she explains. In addition, Messiah is her favourite choral work. “I’m in awe of the fact that Handel wrote the oratorio in just 24 days in 1741, and it is such an amazing score,” Sinker adds. The scriptural text was written in English, compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible.
Messiah is usually performed at Christmas: it describes in song, not only the birth of Jesus, but also his death and resurrection. The Hallelujah Chorus is the best-known piece in Messiah, with many groups recording the familiar “King of kings and Lord of lords! And He shall reign forever and ever! Hallelujah!” Recently, it was popularized by flash mobs in malls during the Christmas season. “People will also recognize other pieces, such as ‘Every Valley Shall Be Exalted’, ‘And the Glory of the Lord’, and ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’,” Sinker adds.
Although Handel was born in Germany and studied across Europe, he later became a British subject. Messiah was first performed in Dublin, Ireland in 1742, and then in London, England in 1743, where the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus began. Apparently, King George II was in the audience and was so taken with the Hallelujah Chorus that he stood. Protocol dictates that when the King stands, everyone else must stand. So out of respect, the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus continues.
Dr. Charlene Pauls is the artistic director of London Pro Musica Choir, and will be the conductor for this event. She has appeared across Canada as a soprano soloist and leads two choirs in Oakville. As well, she teaches voice with St. Michaels Choir in Toronto.
Four professional soloists will join the choir in Grand Bend especially for this event:
- Matthew Cassils, Baritone, completed his vocal studies at McGill University in Montreal before relocating to Toronto to attend the Royal Conservatory. He has appeared with both the Regina Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, as well as on CBC and Bravo TV.
- Bethany Hörst, Soprano, has appeared in numerous productions with opera companies across Canada, U.S., France, and the Netherlands, and her roles include Baroque operas, classical works, and 20th-century repertoire. She holds a Masters of Music in Literature and Performance from Western University, where she currently teaches voice.
- Christopher Mayell, Tenor, is a rising star in Canada, performing with the Edmonton Symphony, Kingston Symphony, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and the Elora Festival Singers. He has also joined the Winnipeg Symphony as well as Orchestra London for performances of Messiah.
- Laura Pudwell, Mezzosoprano, is at home on the opera, oratorio or recital stage, and has performed across Canada with such companies as Opera Atelier, Calgary Opera, Vancouver Early Music and Festival Vancouver, as well the Houston Grand Opera and the Cleveland Opera. She appears performs regularly in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Calgary, and Nova Scotia.
The accompanist will be Grace Yip on grand piano. She is a well-established and talented choral pianist in London.
In the spirit of Christmas, organizers have invited anyone who knows Messiah to sing along during three of the more familiar choruses. “If you are a singer and have the score, bring it, and join in,” Eddy says.
The concert series team has rented the large theatre at Huron Country Playhouse, knowing this event will be popular. Eddy is encouraging everyone to get tickets early. “The summer theatre will be warmed up for your Christmas enjoyment,” she says. A snow date has been set for December 10.
Tickets can be purchased from various members of Huron Shores United Church choir: Carey Eddy at 519-238-8566, Janice Sinker at 519-238-5436, Deb and Doug Procter at 519-238-2973, and Paul Seagrave at 519-238-8811, or at AkSence Tea Room & Gift Boutique, 8 Main Street in Grand Bend, 226-377-1851.
“We hope everyone will come, not only to hear this great performance but also support the church’s renovation fund,” Eddy says. Plans for the future of the renovated church include its use as a community centre and concert hall. At present, during the construction, the church meets on Sunday mornings at the Grand Bend Legion Hall.