The 25 soloists for this year’s production of Handel’s “Messiah” have been announced, and, for the first time since the piece was performed at Hillsdale College, no faculty will sing a solo.
“In 2008 we had stronger vocalists and incorporated them in with the faculty,” Associate Professor of Music James Holleman said. “It was very successful and we had a positive reaction. The program was developed for student experience. If they have the ability, we’ll lean toward that.”
The “Messiah” is performed by the Hillsdale College choir once every four years, but Holleman said the piece has developed significantly throughout the three performances since he started work at Hillsdale in 1997.
“[As we have been] building the music program, we’ve seen a significant increase in numbers,” he said.
Each student learned their audition piece during private voice lessons. Junior Aaron Sandford will be performing the solos “Behold, I Tell” and “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”
“I’ve been working on this solo since last semester,” he said. “I worked on it a bit over the summer and started again in lessons this semester. I’m fortunate that it’s in my junior year. I would not be able to do it otherwise.”
Some students have one performance, others have all three. Becky Schoon, a fifth year senior, is singing “Rejoice” in all three performances and “I Know My Redeemer Liveth.”
“I’m so excited to perform in front of everyone,” she said. “The words are straight from the Bible.”
Many students expressed their love for the “Messiah” because it has biblical origins and scripture all throughout. Some have experience with the “Messiah,” while others have only heard the Hallelujah chorus, though all find it triumphant and incredible to sing together.
“I love how it goes through the salvation story,” junior Mary Proffit Kimmel, who sings the “Angel recitatives,” said.
Junior Tom Ohlgren, a soloist singing “Thus Saith the Lord” and “But Who May Abide The Day of His Coming,” has never heard the full performance of the “Messiah” before, but his high-school choir would perform the Hallelujah chorus every Christmas, and he has come to appreciate the beauty of it.
“The content and what it talks about is just very beautiful,” he said.
Junior David Krueger said he, too, had never heard the entire “Messiah” before, but he said he loves having the biblical passages set to beautiful music.
“It’s a lot of fun to share music,” he said. “There is something uniquely good about music in general. It can enhance and make people’s lives better.”
Students said practicing for the performance has been difficult. but ultimately they are excited to see the progress and perform the famous piece.
“One of the great things I love is coming together and making the piece work,” freshman soloist Allyn Morrison said. “It’s so complex and grand. You live and breathe it and then ‘bam’ it just works. You hear the altos, sopranos, tenors, and basses, and you know you’ve made something magical.”