With its signature “Hallelujah” chorus, George Friderich Handel’s “Messiah” is performed worldwide in concert halls and churches by ensembles ranging from professional choruses to community singalongs during the holiday season.
In the New Orleans area, “Messiah” will be sung by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Baroque Christmas” concerts Dec. 17 and 18 in New Orleans and the north shore.
Handel, who composed more than two dozen oratorios — most with biblical or mythological themes — wrote the score to “Messiah” in 24 days during the summer of 1741 from a libretto by Charles Jennens.
It premiered in Dublin the following year and in London’s Covent Garden in 1743. It was coolly received in London, so Handel and Jennens made some revisions. They were the right changes: By the time of Handel’s death in 1759, the piece had entered the standard choral repertoire.
The LPO/NOVA presentation of “Messiah” will be on successive nights at the Baptist churches of New Orleans and Covington. LPO music director Carlos Miguel Prieto will conduct the 70-member orchestra. This is the second year that NOVA has accompanied the LPO for the “Baroque Christmas” concert.
The first half of both evenings’ concerts will include Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” featuring LPO principal harpist Rachel Van Voorhees Kirschman and the women of the NOVA Chorus, followed by Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Piccolo in C-major with featured soloist Patti Adams on piccolo.
Meg Frazier, associate professor of music at Loyola University, is the choral conductor.
Frazier explained that, although there have been various adaptations of “A Ceremony of Carols,” she requested the chorus sing it in Britten’s original “treble choir” version, meaning the voice categories in the upper register. The women will sing it to Van Voorhees’ accompaniment, and there will be a harp solo during the interlude.
The “Messiah” excerpts will be sung in the evenings’ second halves, with tenor Kameron Lopreore and soprano Alissa Mercurio Rowe as featured soloists.
“We’re singing six choruses, plus tenor and soprano solos, mostly from the first section,” Frazier said. “It’s kind of a ‘greatest hits’ sort of thing.”
The concert will close with the “Hallelujah” chorus, which ends Part II of the work, Frazier said.
“We’re very honored to be able to collaborate again with the LPO,” Frazier said. “We always enjoy it. Our level of preparation has to be very, very high. The singers realize this is a professional ensemble and they work with that in mind. It’s very exciting for our singers to do this.”
Prieto will speak at 6:30 p.m., an hour prior to each concert.