Hear Handel's 'Messiah' at Sumter's Trinity United Methodist Church on Sunday

Oratorio features community choir, soloists

BY IVY MOORE
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 12/14/18

Eleven years after their first collaboration that brought a live concert of "Messiah" to Sumter, Charles Haraway and Walter S. "Chuck" Wilson are again directing the Christmas part of Georg Frideric Handel's famous oratorio.

The performance will …

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Hear Handel's 'Messiah' at Sumter's Trinity United Methodist Church on Sunday

Oratorio features community choir, soloists

Posted

Eleven years after their first collaboration that brought a live concert of "Messiah" to Sumter, Charles Haraway and Walter S. "Chuck" Wilson are again directing the Christmas part of Georg Frideric Handel's famous oratorio.

The performance will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday at Trinity United Methodist Church, where Haraway is minister of music. Wilson is the director of music at Emmanuel United Methodist Church.

Haraway said the productions of "Messiah" started with a collaboration between Trinity UMC and The Church of the Holy Comforter in 2007.

"After recurring performances throughout the years, singers from other churches and throughout the community, including Columbia, Charleston, Orangeburg, Summerton and others, have come together to sing this marvelous work," Haraway said.

"It's really an ecumenical effort," Wilson added.

Haraway said "Messiah" was composed by Handel in English in 1741; the text of the three-part oratorio is from the King James Bible. Sunday's performance "will stay on Part I, which tells the story of the Nativity, adding the Hallelujah chorus from Part II."

While the Hallelujah chorus is concerned with Easter, "it has become a Christmas icon over the years," he said.

Haraway said an oratorio is "similar to opera but with no sets, costumes or acting, (and it's usually) religious" in its subject matter. Handel wrote many oratorios, but "Messiah" is his best known, perhaps because it can be performed in whole, and each of its parts can be sung appropriately for a specific time in the church calendar. Part I is often presented during Advent.

The choir for Sunday's performance comprises some of the community's finest singers, Wilson said, as well as prominent soloists: soprano Chrissy Welch, a member of Florence's Masterworks Singers; bass Benjamin Seabrook; and alto Anne Harley from Charleston.

Wilson will play organ for the prelude and the Hallelujah chorus. Beth Lewallen will play harpsichord, and Haraway will sing "Once in Royal David's City" as part of the prelude. Beverly and Delaine Frierson will sing "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," and pianist Tabitha Haskins will play Tim O'Neal's arrangement of "Good King Wenceslas." Wilson will also play a Dale Woods arrangement of "Angels from the Realms of Glory."

The singers will be accompanied by a string quartet organized and directed by Worth Lewallen, a University of South Carolina graduate with degrees in violin performance and education. He has served as artist in residence for Trinity UMC since January.

Hamilton Stoddard and Kay Rasmussen have served as rehearsal pianists for the choir, Haraway said.

He also noted that, remarkably, Handel composed his most-recognized oratorio in only 24 days.

Part I begins with Isaiah 40: 1-3, which includes the words " prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God."

"We think the Sumter community deserves to hear 'Messiah' because it's such a seminal work," Haraway said.

He and Wilson said they hope eventually to present "Messiah" in its entirety in the future.