Delaware Choral Society lifts voices for ‘Messiah’

Elizabeth O’Shea, left, and Ilva Hertzler sing during the Delaware Choral Society rehearsal of Messiah. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The Delaware Choral Society is bringing back to the stage the baroque masterpiece “Messiah” by G.F. Handel Saturday night at Dover High School.

“It’s such a famous piece and was an annual tradition for some time,” said director Dr. James Wilson.

To allow the Choral Society more flexibility in the pieces it performs, “Messiah” became a tradition that comes once every five years and this is Dr. Wilson’s second time directing it.

“Playing a well-known piece, especially one like ‘Messiah’ is an advantage because many of the singers have sung it before and more than 10 new singers joined because they have experience with the piece and want to sing it again,” Dr. Wilson said.

Director, Dr. James Wilson during the Delaware Choral Society rehearsal of Messiah. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Alto singer Marjorie Ramsey said doing major works like “Messiah” is what keeps her involved in music.

“I’ve only been in the Choral Society for three years but I’ve been singing since I was in high school and have always loved classical, major works and it’s a great experience to be able to sing them, especially in a group like this,” she said.

Other works in the group’s repertoire include Brahm’s “Requiem,” Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”

This year’s performance of “Messiah” is a special one because it’s the 60th anniversary of the group’s founding and former director Judy Moore will return to lead the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Twenty-five Dover High School Vocal Arts Academy students will join in singing that movement as well.

The Choral Society is a nonprofit group and requires no audition, so all the singers are there for one primary reason — they love to sing.

“It’s less pressure than if it were a professional group. People do it because they love it and you can tell because within the group, there’s always a community feeling and it’s a familial environment,” Dr. Wilson said.

Dan Taylor moved to Dover five years ago and joined the Choral Society while looking for ways to get involved in the community.

“I love to sing and I was looking for opportunities to sing outside of church and this was the perfect option for me,” he said.

Frances P. Johnson, right, and Muriel Kline sing. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

In total, the Choral Society has nearly 100 members ranging in age from teens to eighty-somethings and the “Messiah” performance is more involved than just the 100 singers.

Four soloists are coming in from out of town to perform in the piece soloists — Laura Heimes, Robin Bier, Jarrod Miller and Paul Corujo — some returning to perform with the Choral Society after previous performances with the group and one new to the society.

“There is a network of musicians we work with and we have soloists from Pennsylvania and New Jersey this year and I have worked with one of the singers many times and I know these are soloists that will bring something great to our show,” Dr. Wilson said.

Several professional musicians will provide accompaniement as well.

“It’s really cool to have so many ages, decades and generations represented,” Dr. Wilson said.

“Here, no matter how old or experienced you are, we encourage everyone to sing from the heart because every voice is valued here.”

Brandon Morgan, left, and Brenda Morris sing during the Delaware Choral Society rehearsal of Messiah. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Taylor said that there’s something special about singing with so many voices in the Choral Society.

“There is nothing like the power and strength that is produced from a large group like this,” he said. “It’s really amazing. And it gives us a lot of options for musical selections.”

And they do take advantage of those options and occasionally step outside the norm.

This spring’s performance will be a “Tribute to Broadway” featuring an array of show tunes and an eight-piece brass band.

“We do like our traditional pieces, but shows like the spring one are a lot of fun to do and more lighthearted than some of the work we typically do,” Dr. Wilson said.

Tickets for the concert may be purchased in advance from any DCS member, at the Modern Maturity Center, and online at the Delaware Choral Society Facebook page or www.DelawareChoralSociety.org.

Advance tickets are $10 for students with ID, $18 for military and seniors and $20 for adults. At the door, tickets are $15 for students, $20 for military and seniors and $25 for adults.

Accompanist Sherry Roscoe during the Delaware Choral Society rehearsal of Messiah. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

For more information, call 697-1574.

‘Lessons and Carols’

On Sunday and Dec. 10, Dr. Wilson will conduct The Kent Chamber Choir as they present two “Lessons and Carols” services in collaboration with the Delaware Youth Chorale, an offshoot of the Delaware Choral Society; First State Brass; and Wesley College Choir.

Admission is free at both services, which will be held Sunday at 5 p.m. at Wesley College Chapel, Bradford and Division streets in Dover and Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. at Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica.

There will be a diverse selection of readings and Christmas music, spanning decades and genres, highlighted by festive instrumentation. More information about the concert and choir can be found at KentChamberChoir.org, contacting Dr. Wilson at Wilson@wesley.edu or by calling (302) 736-2466.

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