Handel's 'Messiah' again tops Brandeis Billboard

Campus sing-along tradition draws members of community in holiday celebrations

The December chill was quickly vanquished inside the Shapiro Campus Center when students, faculty and staff gathered for the annual performance and sing-along of George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece, “Messiah.”

The event has become so popular that families from surrounding cities and towns have started including it in their own holiday traditions.

Shelly Erickson of Medford arrived with her husband and three children.

“We’re a home schooling family so we try to get involved with what the community is doing,” Erickson said. “When we saw it was open to the public, we were excited.”

The Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra, the University Chorus and the Brandeis Chamber Choir echoed brilliantly throughout all three levels of the campus center. Eleven movements from “Messiah” were performed, beginning with Sinfonia-Overture, and ending with Hallelujah Chorus. Originally an Easter offering, and now popular for the Christmas season, the first performance of “Messiah” took place in Dublin’s Music Hall in 1742; the first performance in the United States took place in Boston in 1818.

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“We make a mighty sound,” said Professor of Astrophysics John Wardle, one of many faculty members and administrators who participated in the chorus. Wardle is also a member of the Newton Choral Society.

James Olesen conducted the first 10 movements, and President Fred Lawrence, an enthusiastic tenor, made his Brandeis conducting debut in the Hallelujah Chorus.

“I’ve waited 20 years for this,” joked Lawrence, who was the co-leader of the Williams College marching band. “The experience was delightful.”

The performance culminated with faux snowfall from the third-floor balcony.

“This is a wonderful gathering of our community,” said Heller School Dean Lisa Lynch. “Everybody has a chance to sing together, share a special moment over the course of the year. It’s a great break in the midst of all the studying for exams. It’s one of those special Brandeis traditions that makes our community what it is.”

A Christmas tree lighting, carolers and a Hanukkah candle lighting followed the sing-along.

Sarah Pace ’13, who has participated every year since she was a freshman, said while Brandeis is not a denominational school, she feels the university leans toward the Jewish side, and welcomed the inclusiveness.

“It’s nice that we do this Christmas, festive thing every year, as it shows that we really are a warm, welcoming school that does all different kinds of things,” Pace said. “Faculty, administration, and students are able to come together and it’s a great experience.”

Pace said despite Lawrence’s lack of conducting experience she felt he did a wonderful job.

“He was just so honored to have been chosen,” Pace said. “It felt like the cherry on top because it’s already such an amazing event and tying in the president was just a great way of saying, ‘You’re a part of us.’”

Se Jun Lee contributed to this report

Categories: Arts, Student Life

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