Bridgewater College Oratorio Choir to Perform Handel’s Messiah

Two males hold song books while sitting in pews for a choir rehearsal

The 60-voice Oratorio Choir at Bridgewater College will perform Handel’s Messiah on Friday, Nov. 5, in the concert hall of the Carter Center for Worship and Music on the College’s campus.

Back from a pandemic pause in 2020, the ensemble for Handel’s Messiah is comprised mostly of student members of the College’s Concert Choir and includes two Bridgewater faculty members as well as 15 alumni and community members.

The performance is under the direction of Dr. Ryan Keebaugh ’02, assistant professor of music at Bridgewater College, and features former visiting director of choral music at Bridgewater Curtis Nolley ’76 (tenor), adjunct professor of music at Bridgewater College Shannon Kiser (baritone) and Christine Glick Fairfield (soprano).

“The Bridgewater College Oratorio Choir is a decades-old tradition that students, alumni, faculty and staff missed during the fall of 2020. The Oratorio Choir provides the occasion for current students, faculty, staff, community members and alumni to come together to rehearse and perform a choral masterwork. This is our response to COVID—to unite once more with a passion for singing astonishing choral works,” Keebaugh said.

For choir member Bob Armbruster ’75, former development officer in the College’s Office of Institutional Advancement, Messiah will be his eighth performance with the group.

“We are so pleased to be able to sing together again. I never sang Messiah as a student, so that was another reason I joined again this year,” Armbruster said.

Leisha Nissley ’23, a music education major from Mount Crawford, Va., said making connections with members of the choir as well as with a piece like Messiah are the highlights of the Oratorio Choir.

“I think it’s really cool to be part of something that’s part of the Bridgewater community. It’s always exciting to be part of something like Messiah and getting history from that and making personal connections with the music. The performance is going to be something people are going to want to come to,” Nissley said.

Messiah’s libretto is compiled from the Bible, primarily the Old Testament. Rather than telling the story of Jesus narratively, it presents the significance of the Christian Messiah as a theological idea. Despite its religious subject matter, the libretto, and therefore the entire work, is conceived of operatically: The Biblical texts were chosen and arranged in the traditional operatic forms of recitative and aria, and the work’s three parts are subdivided into separate scenes, much like an opera.

“The audience can expect a beautiful performance of Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah,” Keebaugh said. “The performance will feature a chamber orchestra comprised of BC faculty and other professional musicians in the area. The performance also will feature guest soloists and highlight student vocal soloists. This will be an event not to miss.”

The performance is free and open to the public. In keeping with guidance from the CDC, Bridgewater College requires that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, properly wear face masks when indoors in public areas of campus.

Bridgewater College Oratorio Choir
What: Handel’s Messiah
When: Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Carter Center for Worship and Music, Concert Hall

(NOTE: The Saturday, Nov. 6, performance of Handel’s Messiah has been cancelled. There is only one performance of Messiah on Friday, Nov. 5.)

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Logan Bogert
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(540) 828-5486