Performance of Handel's 'Messiah' a community effort

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If you go

What: Handel's Messiah

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Moffat County High School auditorium

Admission: Free (offerings accepted)

— It was an unfulfilled wish.

John Bolton, Moffat County High School band director, wanted to organize a production of Handel's "Messiah."

He knew local musicians who could perform it. All he needed was a choir director.

When he met Sean Teets, the high school's new director of choral activities, he saw his chance.

When the two met in August, Bolton presented the idea to Teets.

"He asked me if I wanted to do it next year," Teets said. "I said, 'No ... this year.'"

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Moffat County students and community members are scheduled to perform portions of Handel's "Messiah" at 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school auditorium.

"In my mind, it's already a success," Teets said. "Students singing with teachers, singing with parents - that's what makes it successful."

Bolton agreed, adding, "The first step was getting the community to come together." Both the chorus and orchestra include students, parents, teachers and community members.

"It's really a musical cross-section of the community," Bolton said. "It was a collaborative effort to combine the community and the school."

Although most of the performers are local, major-level voice students - Teets' acquaintances from graduate school - were invited to sing the main solos.

In the future, the choir director intends to enlist local talent for these parts.

During four weeks of practices, both performers and their conductors have had to learn new skills, Bolton said.

The piece is no easy performance.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most difficult, Teets rates the piece at an eight or a nine.

Several factors make the composition difficult to play.

First, it's the product of a different era.

"It was written at a time when music was extremely complex and ornamented," Teets said.

Second, not all the music is explicitly written.

"Some of the notes we play aren't written in the score," he added. "When Handel wrote this (score), he used this more as a guide."

Still, the score allows the teachers to improvise, adjusting for the performer's skills.

The choir and orchestra have practiced weekly since late November. During these practices, Bolton gave the five students performing in his orchestra one caveat. Instead of preparing for the real world, he said, they are participating in the real world, practicing the piece that professional symphonies will perform across the nation.

"Our only captivation is the value of the work," he said.

The teachers hope performing Handel's "Messiah" becomes an annual holiday tradition in Moffat County.

They're starting that tradition this year, Bolton said. They're training this year's performers to be the momentum that keeps the production going.

"We're laying the groundwork," he added.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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