Messiah set to return Monday to Kinston

Messiah set to return Monday to Kinston

Photo by Catherine Hardee / Neuse News

Sometimes, traditions can get started by a mistake. For instance, tradition dictates the audience rises to its feet at the beginning of the famous Hallelujah Chorus of George Frederic Handel’s oratorio Messiah.

This tradition is believed to date back to the 1743 London premiere of the piece, when King George II rose to his feet as the chorus began. Since the king stood, so did the rest of the audience, and audiences have been doing it ever since.

Some believe King George was awed by the majesty of the music, while others believe the king thought the pause before the chorus signaled the end of the performance and was standing up to leave.

Whatever the reason, music lovers in Lenoir County will get the chance to participate in this tradition Monday at 7 p.m., when the Kinston/Lenoir County Community Choir, under the direction of Dr. John O’Brien, will hold its annual performance of Handel’s Messiah at Kinston First Presbyterian Church.

The event will feature soprano Jon Ward Shaw, countertenor Bryan Pollock, tenor Michael Vetrano and bass Walter R. Swan as soloists, along with the N.C. Baroque Orchestra. O’Brien was instrumental in resurrecting the annual performance after LCC was no longer able to provide it to the community.

“I think it’s just really important that classical music … is in our community and in our society,” O’Brien said. “This is the one piece that everybody knows, and it’s the perfect way to make classical music part of your holiday.”

O’Brien said there’s a reason Messiah remains popular.

“it’s a fabulous piece of music,” he said. “it’s one of the great pieces in all of Western music … and it’s been popular ever since its first performance.”

For members of the choir, the annual event is a chance to enjoy singing a challenging piece of music with other music lovers. Rufus Allen, 91, is participating in his 16th performance of Messiah this year, and he said he comes out every year because he loves it, and wishes more people in the community would get involved.

“I will do it as long as they let me,” he said.

For soprano Mary Cauley, singing in Messiah fills a void since her church no longer has a choir, and it gives her a chance to get to know other singers in the community.

“It adds the spirit of Christmas into my life,” she said.

The performance last year was very well attended, and O’Brien hopes this year will bring even more people. The suggested donation for admission is $10 at the door, but O’Brien hopes those who can afford it would be willing to donate more.

“This is something that we want everyone to come to … and we don’t want anyone not to come because they can’t afford it,” O’Brien said.

He hopes that in future years, some of the costs of the event will be offset by business sponsorships, to ensure he is able to continue to bring this iconic Christmas tradition to the community.

The performance is Monday at 7 p.m. in the main sanctuary of Kinston First Presbyterian Church, 2101 N. Herritage St. No tickets are required, but a donation is requested at the door, with the suggested amount of $10 per person.

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