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The music department will perform Handel’s ‘Messiah’ at College Baptist this weekend | Phil DeVoe

The Hillsdale College Choir, Chamber Choir, and Sym­phony Orchestra will perform George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” at College Baptist Church Dec. 2 through Dec. 4.

“‘The Messiah’ is a special oppor­tunity and I am very excited to be a part of it,” sophomore Alex Pankow, a member of the chorus, said.

The choirs and orchestra have joined to perform the ora­torio once every four years since 2000, but this year’s is the first com­plete per­for­mance. Pro­fessor James Holleman said small sec­tions have been cut in pre­vious years — in 2012, for example, he chose to omit an aria, a chorus, and an orchestral interlude.

“This year, the choir was learning the music very quickly, and the voice faculty wanted to add the aria back, so I said we might as well perform it to com­pletion,” Holleman said.

Holleman explained that under­standing of “Messiah” as simply a col­lection of arias, reprieves, and chorals — meaning cutting one or two would not be dis­cour­teous to Handel’s message — is an incorrect one.

“It’s a con­sistent bib­lical nar­rative, so the story is incom­plete if sec­tions are left out,” Holleman said. “Why be so close and not do it in com­pletion?”

The decision to perform the com­plete ora­torio also reflects a higher quality of musi­cianship, according to Teacher of Music Debbi Wyse, who is an organist and a leader of choir rehearsals for the per­for­mance. She said she has admired the effort put forth by the 170 members — 130 in the choirs and 40 in the orchestra — of the per­for­mance.

“We really have a solid group this year; top-notch kids,” Wyse, who has been on the Music Department staff for all four prior per­for­mances, said. “It’s a great way to showcase everyone’s hard work.”

Holleman, who is directing both the choir and orchestra, said he has employed certain points of con­trast throughout the per­for­mance, such as the vari­ation in soloists and the use of basso con­tinuo. Instead of having a single tenor or soprano sing all tenor or soprano parts, he has assigned solos to 36 stu­dents.

“I’m matching their abil­ities, whether they’re music majors or not, which bal­ances it and gives them the oppor­tunity of having a solo at a level with which they will succeed,” Holleman said.

This diver­si­fi­cation of solo parts also mimics the tra­dition of Handel’s time — during his own pro­duction of “the Messiah,” Handel used 28 soloists. Fur­thermore, Holleman has assigned some choral move­ments to the larger college choir and some to the smaller chamber choir.

Com­posers of the Baroque period, like Handel, used an element called basso con­tinuo to fill in har­monies with a key­board instrument. Holleman has repli­cated this through the use of not only the organ but also a harp­si­chord, played by vis­iting Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Music Theory Daniel Tacke.

“Per­sonally, I am very excited to hear Pro­fessor Tacke play harp­si­chord — he is doing an out­standing job of that,” Wyse said.

Holleman said most con­ductors of “the Messiah” will “wobble” through the music, despite Handel’s pref­erence of moving through it briskly. Not only will there be no inter­mission during the show — in part because of the lim­i­ta­tions from the size of College Baptist Church — but the per­formers also will not take breaks between move­ments.

“I keep it con­nected and move along so we don’t become stuck in it,” Holleman said.

The per­for­mances are at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 and 3 and 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 4. All three per­for­mances are sold out, but there are wait lists in the event of can­cel­la­tions. Music Department staff are encour­aging stu­dents on the wait lists or who have already been granted tickets who can no longer attend the per­for­mance to contact the Sage Box Office and release their name, so others can get seats for the per­for­mances.