A new twist on an old tradition -- 'snow' in the campus center

Flakes shower students, faculty and staff at 'Messiah Sing'

Amid a silvery winter dusk – much welcomed in this atypically warm season – the Shapiro Campus Center glowed golden with the bright lights and warm feelings of the annual “Messiah Sing.”

The usual packed house of students, faculty and staff, which included President Fred Lawrence amongst the tenors, followed the lead of the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra and the Brandeis University Chorus in performing the oratorio “Messiah,” composed by G.F. Handel in 1741.

Campus historians long ago lost track of when the annual tradition began here; all that’s known is that “Messiah” was sung for many years in the Music Department before moving to the atrium of the then-new campus center in 2004.

“It is one of my favorite lines in Scripture,” Father Walter Cuenin, coordinator of the Interfaith Chaplaincy, said softly as the words of the overture – “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” – reverberated in the soaring space. The lyric, taken from Isaiah Chapter 40, is associated in Christian tradition with John the Baptist – “the voice that crieth in the wilderness” – and is beloved in Judaism as the beginning of the haftorot of consolation.

There were cheers and cries of “Yo-ni! Yo-ni!” as Yonatan Battat ’13 rose to conduct the concluding “Hallelujah Chorus,” an honor usually accorded to a senior but which went to the viola-playing junior because he won the student concerto competition and has a wide range of other musical activities, including participation in the a capella group Company B.

“We sing oldies – but not this old,” said Battat, a double major in music and philosophy who studies conducting with Neal Hampton, maestro of the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra, and choral directing with music professor James D. Olesen. He and the winner of Wellesley’s student concerto competition, a violinist, will reprise their award-winning performances next semester during the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts.

The concert ended with a surprise snow shower from the upper reaches of the atrium that drew oohs, ahhs and broad smiles from the assemblage. At the instigation of Office of the Arts Director Scott Edmiston, a posse including himself, Fr. Cuenin, Heller School Dean Lisa Lynch, Student Activities Director Stephanie Grimes and Assistant Provost for Graduate Student Affairs Alwina Bennett raided hole punchers in the administrative offices of the campus center during the performance and threw the contents from the upper balcony at the finale.  

Categories: Arts, General

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