Beginnings: Messiah

Oak Ridge Chorus
Ticket price

South Harriman Baptist Church

The Oak Ridge Chorus, Roane Choral Society, and Knoxtet join forces in this performance of Messiah, part I.  Be uplifted by this holiday favorite led by Choral Director Brenda Luggie.  Other pieces on the program are Hymn of Consecration by Marvin V. Curtis, Ani Ma'amin arranged by Stephen Coker, and Dormi, Jesu by Abbie Betinis.  Although this concert is being presented in addition to our subscription series, the concert is part of our Penny4Arts programming offering FREE attendance for youths 18 and under.  This concert is free with the purchase of ORCMA's Symphony & Chorus Series Subscription or the Combined Series Subscription.  PLEASE NOTE:  Advance tickets are not available.  Admission is at the door with a $15 donation.  Masks and social distancing are required.  This concert will be held at South Harriman Baptist Church, 626 Ruritan Road, Harriman, TN. 

Directions to the church from Oak Ridge (approximately 25 minutes from the intersection of Illinois & the Turnpike) 

From I-40W:
Take Exit 350 (Harriman/Midtown).
Turn Right onto Pine Ridge Road (turns into Ruritan Road).
The Church is on the Left, 1.8 miles from the exit.
626 Ruritan Road in Harriman, TN

From 61W (through downtown Harriman):
Merge onto 27S
Continue through downtown Harriman and across the bridge.
Turn Left onto Ruritan Road (1st light after the bridge).
The Church is on the Right, 0.4 miles from the light.
626 Ruritan Road in Harriman, TN

Park in the large lots on the north and west sides of the Church (the driveway on the Right side when facing the front of the church from Ruritan Road.)  The portico entrance with automatic doors may be used for drop offs.

Program Page 1Program Page 2Program Page 3

Oak Ridge Chorus Principal Singers are sponsored by Chuck Darling in memory of Dorothy Weight.  The Oak Ridge Chorus Accompanist Chair is sponsored by the Jay Muci Family in memory of Herbert Eckhoff.  Additional chorus funding is provided by Nancy Hardin, Penny Lukin, and Nancy Beth McNeill.

Corporate funding and support for ORCMA’s 2021–2022 season is generously provided by UT-Battelle / Club ORNL, Spectra Tech, Inc., First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge Fund for Achieving Community Excellence, Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club Foundation, Tennessee Arts Commission & Tennessee Specialty Plates, Oak Ridge Public Library, and Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning.



Messiah soloists
Jacquie Brecheen, soprano
Amanda Peavyhouse, soprano
Robyn VanLeigh-Maker, soprano
Roxanne Cabrera-Blaine, alto
Seth O'Kegley-Gibson, tenor
Matthew Rajkowski, bass
Michael Roemer, bass

Jacquie Brecheen and Amanda Peavyhouse, sopranos
Roxanne Cabrera-Blaine and Lindsey Cope, altos
Joshua Spurling and Clayton Scarborough, tenors
Paul Davis III and Matthew Rajkowski, basses

Oak Ridge Chorus Accompanist
Melony Dodson


Program Notes by Mike Cates

The season of “Advent” in the Christian tradition is built around the story of the birth of Jesus in what is now Israel more than two millennia ago. The idea is that the season signals a new start for all of humanity. It is a time of celebration and, for the most part, a time of joy. So, every year we have the privilege of starting again, so to speak. Christmas or Hanukkah leads into the next calendar year, and we human beings have the opportunity to get it right, over and over all through our lives. Of course, we never get it right, but perhaps the effort is more important than the goal of the effort. And music is always a big part of every beginning, because music allows us to express beyond what we can say. This year, after many months of retreat from a virus that would infect us if it could, beginning again takes on special meaning. So then, like Longfellow, “Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.”

Marvin V. Curtis (b. 1951) Hymn of Consecration

Here are a few facts about Marvin V. Curtis, summarized from the internet.

“He presently serves as Dean of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University South Bend and Director of the Symphonic Choir of South Bend. ... He earned the Bachelor of Music Degree from North Park University in Chicago; his Master of Arts from The Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia; and the Doctor of Education from The Uni­versity of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He did additional studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey and The Juilliard School of Music in New York. He was a 1993 Ford Foundation Fellow to the National Council for Black Studies Conference in Accra, Ghana, where he studied at the University of Ghana at Lagon.”

Hymn of Consecration has text derived from Psalm 122. It has a driving kind of energy, appro­priate for going "to the house of the Lord."  The unaccompanied middle movement "prays for the peace of Jerusalem.”  The work features a dramatic trumpet solo leading into the final expression of the cho­rus. It is an uplifting start for the concert.


Stephen Coker (b 1952) arr. Aní ma’amín Traditional Jewish Tune

Stephen Coker is Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music at Chapman University in California. He also served on the faculties of Portland State University, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Oklahoma City University. Internationally, he has conducted professional, collegiate, and youth choirs and orchestras in workshops and festivals in Portugal, South Korea, Israel, Sweden, and Taiwan. He is especially drawn to world music and, of course, church music. Throughout most of his academic career, he has held choir director positions at Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Episcopal parishes. Currently, he serves as Director of the Sanctuary Choir at Claremont United Methodist Church.

The text of this work is taken from "Number Twelve" of "Thirteen Principles of Faith" by Moses Maimonides (11381204), a celebrated scholar who was a leading intellectual leader for medieval Judaism. Coker's arrangement is sung in Hebrew, with the clear tones of Jewish tra­ditionhe arrangement has an intriguing, haunting character which transports us into the an­cient faith that is so significant in our cultural heritage. The work is basically a statement of faith, coupled with hope. The violin part provides special significance and authenticity to the mood and sense of the work.


Abbie Betinis (b. 1980) Dormi, Jesu

Abbie Betinis is another example of the multi-faceted nature of composers in our times. She grew up in Wisconsin and is a graduate of St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota, and holds a diplôme from the European American Musical Alliance Institute in Paris, France. She lives in Minnesota, where she is Adjunct Professor of Composition at Concordia University-St Paul and executive director of Justice Choir. These are some of the words Betinis wrote about herself: “Composer Abbie Betinis writes music called 'inventive' (The New York Times), 'joyful… shattering, incandescent' (Boston Globe), and music that 'expands into ethereal realms' (Cambridge University Press). She has been honored to attend performances of her music from Carnegie Hall to Disney Hall, school assemblies to wedding ceremonies, state prisons to capitol buildings, summer camps to the finest international cathedrals. In 2018, her music was performed on four continents, totaling over 500 performances.”

Dormi, Jesu was written in July of 2001. The composer spoke of the work as being inspired by the works of Anton Bruckner (18241896) and Olivier Messiaen (19081992) after she had visited several famous European cathedrals with the St. Olaf Choir. Dormi, Jesu was premiered at l'Eglise Saint Severin in Paris just a few days after its completion, and was a finalist for the Ithaca Choral Composition Competition in fall of 2004.  The words expressed by the chorus are in Latin and are basically a lullaby sung to a child before sleeping. The translation is “Sleep, Jesus. Thy mother smiles when she sees such gentle slumber. Sleep Jesus, gently.” This is a touching piece building an appropriate mood for Handel's most famous work.


George Friderick Handel (16851759) Messiah, Part I (1742)

In the Falkner’s Journal of Dublin, Ireland, on April 13th, 1742 we could have read these words: “On Tuesday last Mr. Handel’s Sacred Grand Oratorio, Messiah, was performed in the new Musick hall in Fishamble Street; the best judges allowed it to be the most finished piece of Musick. Words are want­ing to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crowded Audience. The Sublime, the Grand and the Tender adapted to the most elevated, majestick, and moving Words, conspired to trans­port and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.”

That was the first report of a musical classic work that, if anything, has grown more popular and more in de­mand over the 279 years since its creation. In all the history of music there has never been a greater story of success. What is the special secret of Messiah? Certainly part of it is the text. The oratorio tells the story of the central religious figure in all of Western Culture, the man who, in a real sense, his­tory revolves around, since our calendar itself is referenced to the life of Jesus. And, naturally, another part is the music. Chorus after chorus, solo after solo, of inspired and inspiring phrases have written themselves indelibly in our musical memory. This is especially true in the English-speaking world, both because of the original language of the text, and because of the powerful influence of Protestant thought throughout the British Empire and those former colonies who became the United States of America. But there is another part of the secret. With Messiah, familiarity has produced tradition. Most of us have heard part or all of the oratorio many times, and every time it is performed, we find ourselves anticipating certain favorite passages that we have taken a kind of personal ownership of. Handel’s Messiah has become an integral part of our musical heritage. It’s impossible now to think of life without it.

The words of Messiah deal with the Prophecy, Advent, Nativity, Mission, Sacrifice and Atonement, Ascension, Gospel Tidings and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is divided into three parts, with over fifty individual numbers. In this performance we hear part one, the Christmas section. The work be­gins with a typical French style (slow-fast-slow) overture, setting both an anticipatory and quiet mood. This is followed by the first two solo vocal numbers, the memorable tenor recitative and aria, “Comfort ye” and “Ev’ry valley.” The texts are from Isaiah 40, in which the prophet gives comfort to grieving Jerusalem and a promise of new life to come. The first of the work’s wonderful choruses follows, “And the glory of the Lord.” The following bass recitative, “Thus saith the Lord,” and the aria “But who may abide” are imposing, almost frightening in their aspect, with typical Baroque runs, shakes, and other dramatic effects. The next chorus, “And He shall purify,” is taken from the prophet Malachi, and is a superb example of choral writing that interleaves and builds to thrilling effect. Next is the recitative and aria, with chorus, “Behold a virgin shall conceive” and “O thou that tellest,” with texts from Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew. These two numbers have a dance-like quality to them, in beautiful contrast to sequences before and after. In the bass recitative and aria, “For behold” and “The people that walked in darkness,” there is a solemn return of the prophetic mood, the darkness to be dispelled by the light of salvation. The chorus “For unto us a child is born” is one of the most famous and dramatic moments in the first part, with the words “Wonderful, Councilor, the Mighty God” evoked in anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah.

There follows a cathartic break in feeling with the Pastoral Symphony, which sets up the peaceful, serene mood for the first Christmas Eve. Then comes a series of recitatives set to words from the Gospel of Luke. These passages are both imaginative and musically pictorial. The dramatic chorus “Glory to God” that follows is also set from Luke and is a particularly good example of Handel’s contra­puntal (use of two independent melodies sounded together) style. Then we hear the highly florid and striking (not to mention difficult) area “Rejoice greatly,” followed by a return of the gentle pastoral mood in the recitative and aria “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened” and “He shall feed his flock.” Part I ends with the compelling chorus “His yoke is easy and His burden is light,” the words from the Gospel of Matthew.

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