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Sunday, November 10, 2013


 A performance of Handel's Messiah brings people together all over the world at Christmas time. Many places hold an annual performance but there are only a few where the time span of this tradition stretches over a period of more than 140 years. One of these is the city of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mary Anne Hartley from Maritzburg College, when reviewing a previous performance of Messiah by the same musicians wrote "Messiah has always been about shared communal experience and tradition. The conductor, soloists, choir and orchestra have an understanding of what an involvement in music can do for people. It enriches us and unites us for those few hours reminding us of our humanity."

Handel wrote Messiah in 24 days in 1741. He rarely left his room and hardly ate during this time. On the 24th day when his servant delivered his meal, Handel turned to him, tears streaming down his face and cried out: "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself." He had just finished writing the triumphant music of the Hallelujah Chorus.

In 1756, the first reference to the custom of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus appeared in a letter and this tradition has been followed for the 250 years since then to this day.

The 2013 Pietermaritzburg Messiah performance will feature the PAMS Choir accompanied by the PMB City Orchestra under the baton of Robin Walton. Four professional musicians will sing the solo roles: Linelle Wimbles (soprano); Aukse Trinkunas (contralto); Wayne Mkhize (tenor) and Langelihle Mngxati (bass). The orchestra will be augmented by professional musicians: Christopher Cockburn (organ); Nigel Fish (cello continuo) and Malcolm McKinley (trumpet).

For the last few years the annual performances of Handel's Messiah have been attended by capacity audiences. This year it will be the first time that Messiah has been sung in the beautiful Seth Mokitimi Chapel. Tickets R90 available on 033 347 5464 or at the door. It would be wise to book early as whereas the Cathedral seated 400 people, the Seth Mokitimi Chapel only has 350 seats (with cushions). Tea and scones will be available at interval for R10.

The performance will take place on November 17 at 14h30 in the Seth Mokitimi Chapel at the Methodist Seminary next to Epworth School (115 Golf Road next to Epworth School.)