Attention hearty Yukon yuletide carolers: prepare to step up your game.
Whitehorse’s choir collective, Messiah Chorale, invites you to sing-a-long this solstice weekend. And not just to “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
For the first time in Whitehorse, the audience will be singing along to Handel’s Messiah. Messiah is a mesmerizing English-language Baroque oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759).
“Opera had been banned by the church as being sacrilegious, so Handel wrote oratorios, which was like going to the opera without the costumes,” says violinist, violist, singer, choir director, filmmaker, and Messiah Chorale conductor, Rachel Grantham.
Sing-a-long Messiah concerts are a wild success in other centres, with participating audiences numbering in the thousands.
“Tafelmusik’s event in Toronto is probably the most well-known in Canada,” Grantham says. “Others are fond of the one led by the Vancouver Bach Choir and VSO, which has been engaging audiences for over 30 years at the Orpheum.”
Whitehorse resident Heather MacFadgen attended a Messiah sing-a-long in Vancouver, and encouraged Grantham to start a similar project in the Yukon.
“These events are inclusive and fun,” Grantham says. “Anyone is welcome to give it a whirl, and it’s a great concert for listeners too.”
Audiences won’t be singing the entire, nearly two-hour piece, but the major, and most famous, choruses. Sing-a-long participation is geared towards people who, “can read music, have sung the piece before, or are crack sight-readers,” she says. “Singers will be helped by the core choir and wonderful soloists.”
Approximately a 20-voice choir, the Messiah Chorale is a collective of Yukon classical singers ranging from their late 20’s to those is their senior years. As a collective, everyone’s talents are equally at play in the process.
“This kind of music is a Rubik’s cube,” says Grantham. “Everyone brings their love of classical music and we work on the puzzle together.
“Also, the music we are working on communicates something powerful.”
The Whitehorse sing-a-long is produced by Joan Stanton and features organist Barry Kitchen, plus string quartet, trumpet and flute, conducted by Grantham.
Grantham, who returns to conducting for this concert after a six-year hiatus, is contagiously passionate about classical music.
“I’m super excited to be conducting again, and I love the group I’m working with,” she says. “Balancing conducting and a family can be challenging, but it is worth it, because doing something I love is energizing.”
Grantham, who directed the Whitehorse Community Choir for over 11 seasons, and founded the Persephone Singers, loves to talk about Messiah.
“I love that Handel wrote this in English,” she says. “I don’t often get access to big Baroque music in my native language.
“The story is about the Passion, and whether you are a believer in the biblical story or not, the music is theatrical and accessible.”
For Grantham, the most special aspect of the Messiah sing-a-long is that
Young, professional soloists from Whitehorse, now pursuing careers elsewhere, will be home for the Christmas holiday and will be joining their voices with the Messiah Chorale. Grantham is “ecstatic” to present soloists Kyle McDonald, Carolyn Markos, and Morgan Trainer. These local talents will be joined by Toronto tenor Michael Marino for the occasion.
Sing-a-Long Messiah starts at 8 p.m. sharp on Saturday, December 20 and Sunday, December 21at Whitehorse United Church, located at 601 Main Street.
“We really encourage people to arrive at 7:30 p.m., especially if they are planning to sing,” says Grantham, “we want people to have ample time to settle in and get comfortable for the evening.”
Tickets are $20, and $15 for students and seniors. For more information check out the Messiah Chorale’s facebook page at: www.facebook.com/singalongyukon.