MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

November 30, 2012

Volunteers rise for ‘Messiah’

Choir members from several churches join for Monday performance

— You’d think a 270-year-old classical oratorio with more than 20 sections would take a lot of rehearsals.

Volunteer singers participating in Muskogee’s annual production of Handel’s “Messiah” need only three.

“Most of the people in the chorus have been doing it for years,” said Ineta Bebb, the director for the performance.

 The voices will join for the 49th annual local performance of “Messiah” at 8 p.m. Monday at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2130 W. Okmulgee Ave.

Bebb said chorus members have practiced for the past two Mondays and will practice one final time.

“Sometimes we have people who are not familiar with it and we might have sectional rehearsals, but I don’t think we have any of those this year,” Bebb said. “It’s kind of amazing.”

Bobbie Huddle, a retired school choir director, comes from Eufaula for the rehearsals. She said she always has enjoyed singing what’s known as the “Christmas portion” of the oratorio.

“It’s been a great experience and fun,” she said. “If you’re going to be in music, this is something you need to know.”

Huddle, who lives on the east side of Lake Eufaula, said she lives close enough to Muskogee to come to its fine arts programs. The trip is about 42 miles one way, she said.

With the exception of one year, Bebb has directed “Messiah” since 2004.

“We’ve had as many as 90 and as few as 60 singers,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had below 60. Usually around 70. And every year, we have two or three newcomers.”

Bebb said the “Messiah” offers an opportunity to sing classical religious music, which is no longer sung at several churches.

“This is for those who like the classical music outlet,” she said.

Singers come from a variety of churches and schools, some from Fort Gibson as well as Eufaula and Muskogee.

Some of the soloists are coming from even farther away.

The alto and bass soloists will be Kimberly LaGraff and Scott LaGraff, who are on the music faculty at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Anthony McMullen, a graduate student at Oklahoma State University, is the tenor soloist. The soprano soloist is Mary McGrew, a vocal instructor who played Maria in Muskogee Little Theatre’s production of “The Sound of Music” last spring.

Dr. Michael Bedford, the organist and choirmaster at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tulsa, will be the organist.

The performance is free, but a collection will be taken up to benefit the Thomas E. Yadon Musical Scholarship Trust, which funds scholarships for outstanding choral students.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

If you go

WHAT: 49th annual community performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday.

WHERE: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2130 W. Okmulgee Ave.

ADMISSION: Free, but offering will be taken.

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