When: December 23, 2014 @ 8 pm
Where: Weinberg Center for the Arts, Frederick, MD
Who: Judith L. Dubose, Conductor; Petr Skopek, Concert Master; Christa Monokrousos, Soprano; Melissa Kornacki, Mezzo Soprano; Peter Scott, Drackley, Tenor; Andrew Adelsberger, Bass; Frederick Chamber Singers with Orchestra
There are certain things that are Christmas traditions. One of these things is for a choir to perform selections from G.F. Handel’s The Messiah. For the past 20 years, the Frederick Children’s Chorus (FCC) has presented The Messiah with an interesting twist: the crowd stands and sings some of the choruses. I was lucky enough to have heard about it from a friend and managed to go this year and it was an experience that I will not soon forget.
Under the direction of Judith L. DuBose, the Frederick Chamber Singers (FCS); all in middle or high school; and their guest singers (listed above) provide a truly memorable performance. I was lucky enough to have a chance to communicate with Mrs. DuBose about this unique experience. She started the FCC in 1985 and the FCS in 1995, the same year she starting putting on the sing-along performances of The Messiah. Each year, the soloists are referred to her by the “voice faculty of illustrious schools including Peabody Conservatory, University of Maryland and others.” And lest you dismiss this as an amateur performance (as I was initially inclined to do), the soloists are all accomplished performers in their own right who have performed in operas and around the world.
The performance included 31 of the 53 pieces that make up The Messiah. Most of the pieces are for the soloists with one piece (“He Shall Purify”) performed by the FCS and 9 choruses that the audience sings along with including, of course, “Hallelujah!”- better known as “The Hallelujah Chorus”. The orchestra was not a full orchestra, but that in no way detracted from the performance. Sitting in the theater, you were surrounded by beautiful music that was virtually indistinguishable from professional recordings and performances that I have heard. When “Hallelujah!” started, the entire audience sang with such gusto that it was impossible not to be moved and belt it out with them.
The whole thing is obviously a labor of love for Mrs. DuBose and her energy and enthusiasm was infectious. When the audience was too reserved in their clapping, she made sure that everyone knew that they were free to clap and cheer, and that is exactly what everyone did. Even when the one mistake made (during “O Death, Where is Thy Sting”), she was able to laugh it off, compliment the singers for managing to keep going, and then repeated it to the delight of the audience.
And the students work very hard too. Mrs. DuBose told me that the performers start practicing in early September. Before they can perform on stage, each performer has to be evaluated. This year, there were 12 new singers “including several 7th and 8th graders and a sixth grader singing it for her second time!”
From the opening ditty (not from The Messiah) by a select group from the FCS to the last note of “Worthy is the Lamb”, the entire performance was an experience that everyone should go to if they have the chance. If you don’t know the music and can read music, have no fear. The music is for sale for a relatively inexpensive $10 at the door. If you can’t read music, the words you are singing are in the program. Next year, plan on going because it is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my whole life. I hope to see you there!