Get a Handel on “Messiah”


Published on September 27, 2016 10:42AM

Preparations for the Central Oregon Coast’s biennial performance of Handel’s “Messiah” will begin in Pacific City on Sunday, Oct. 2, with singers and musicians invited to attend the first rehearsal session.

Every two years, the Midway Chorus & Orchestra unites music lovers from Lincoln and Tillamook counties in a production of the renowned piece, with this year’s performances set for Dec. 4 in Tillamook and Dec. 11 in Lincoln City.

Conductor Adam Schwend said that while Handel wrote ‘Messiah’ with Easter in mind, movements such as ‘For Unto Us a Child is Born’ and’ Glory to God’ have led many communities to associate the piece with the Christmas holiday.

“The text of Part One focuses on the prophecy and realization of the redemption of Man by Christ,” Schwend said. “So Part One is the most associated with Christmas. That’s why we perform it in its entirety, while picking some of the more famous choruses and solos from Parts Two & Three, which focus on the accomplishment of salvation and the eternal thanksgiving afterwards.”

Both chorus and orchestra are made up of community members, making it one of the largest community music organizations on the Oregon Coast.

“Every year we have someone singing ‘Messiah’ for the first time,” Schwend said. “We also have members who have been singing it for decades. We have singers with doctorates in music and singers whose only experience in a choir has been at church, and we have everyone in between. It makes it a fantastic and challenging experience for everyone.”

Schwend said this year’s production will use the original orchestration that Handel intended — strings, oboe, bassoon, trumpet and organ.

“When Mozart wanted to perform Messiah, he arranged it to fit the much larger classical symphony orchestras of his time” Schwend said. “ He added trombones, flutes, clarinets and the like. It’s not that it wasn’t lovely, but it wasn’t what Handel intended. I want to get back to that.”

Singers who would like to perform with the Midway Chorus & Orchestra should plan to attend rehearsals on Sunday afternoons at 3 pm at the Kiawanda Community Center, 34600 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City.

Singers and musicians who have a “Messiah” score should bring it. Scores will also be for sale and a limited number will be available to borrow at rehearsals. String, bassoon, oboe and trumpet players interested in joining should contact Schwend or 503-457-8865.