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Hamptons Life

Nov 28, 2011 11:28 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Choral Society Brings Back Holiday Favorite

Nov 29, 2011 1:27 PM

There is a holiday staple that Choral Society of the Hamptons singers love to perform, but they save it for just once every decade or so.

For fans of Handel’s “Messiah,” this is their lucky year.

On Sunday, December 4, close to 70 Choral Society singers, the South Fork Chamber Ensemble and four professional soloists under the baton of conductor Mark Mangini will team up for the society’s 65th annual winter concert and give two back-to-back performances of the Christmas classic at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church.

“Oh, we haven’t done Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in about 10 years, but it’s a very polished piece because so many of the chorus members have sung it before,” chorister Lylla Carter, who also serves as vice president of the Choral Society’s board of directors, said during a telephone interview last week.

“As we say in the business, it’s a barn burner,” she continued. “It’s a familiar work that everybody loves to hear, and it’s a great way to kick off the holidays.”

“Messiah” was composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel. The scriptural text was compiled by Charles Jennens using the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Book of Common Prayer to divide it into three parts.

Handel first intended the oratorio—a large musical composition including an orchestra, choir and soloists, much like an opera—to be performed for Lent and Easter. But Ms. Carter pointed out that, in fact, the piece follows the Christmas story.

This year’s 75-minute program will include all of Part One, two selections from Part Two, including the “Hallelujah” chorus, and the final “Amen” of Part Three, Ms. Carter said.

“The ‘Hallelujah’ chorus is one everyone knows,” she said. “Some people in the audience stand up and actually sing. It’s traditional to stand for this movement, but as far as audience participation goes, it’s kind of a spontaneous thing. We’ll see what happens.”

Of the three concerts the Choral Society puts on every year, this is the only one where audience singing is strongly encouraged—both at the end of the concerts with carols and during the free post-performance reception at the Bridgehampton Community House, which is in its eighth year.

“It’s a tradition for us,” Ms. Carter said. “It’s a community giveback. We carol, there’s tons of food. The chorus brings all kinds of goodies. It’s made the 5:30 concert so popular that it’s already almost sold out.”

The concerts will feature four professional soloists from Manhattan: soprano Rada Hastings, mezzo-soprano Suzanne Schwing, tenor Nils Neubert and baritone Mischa Bouvier. They have all previously performed with the Choral Society, Ms. Carter said.

“They’re all really warm singers, the tenor in particular,” she said. “One of the tenor aria solos is very, very challenging and he has a very crisp and clear sound that’s going to address Handel’s intricate runs.”

Founded in 1946, the society has covered almost every major piece in the choral repertory during its 65 years, Ms. Carter said. Its choristers range from high school students to members who have been singing since the group’s inception, she said.

And it’s the singers who will make the upcoming performances “joyful and uplifting,” Ms. Carter said.

“I always think of singing in a chorus almost like working a puzzle with 60 of your best friends,” she said. “This is very intricate, fun-to-sing music. Some of the things we sing are more arcane, but this is very approachable. As an audience member, it’s going to be fun to be there.”

The Choral Society of the Hamptons will perform Handel’s “Messiah” on Sunday, December 4, at 3 and 5:30 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $25 and $10 for children under 18 in advance, or $35 and $15, respectively, at the door. Preferred seating is $50. A pre-concert brunch will be held at 12:30 p.m. at Pierre’s in Bridgehampton. Tickets are $150 and include preferred seating at the concert. A free post-concert reception and silent auction will follow the 5:30 p.m. performance at the Bridgehampton Community House. For tickets or more information, call 204-9402 or visit choralsocietyofthehamptons.org.

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