Posted by: ritagone | December 21, 2016



bybelstudie-hallelujah         Two nights ago my church, Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California, undertook a rather daunting first-time enterprise: to present the Messiah Sing-along to the greater Conejo Valley community!

Now, for those of you who don’t totally comprehend what that sentence means because you haven’t been exposed to the various parts of what is represented there, let me unpack it and share why it was so daunting: George Frideric Handel, in the year 1741 in an amazing 24 days (let that alone sink in, reader! 24 days!!!) composed the music to the libretto he had already received from Charles Jennens, based on King James Bible scripture, 259 pages, which ended with SDG, Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory.” Of course, everyone knows the very familiar Hallelujah Chorus, but there are arias and recitatives and choirs and full orchestra. It is an exquisite piece of music which has stood the test of time and has been performed everywhere around the world and is considered a part of every artist’s repertoire. I could go on and on to give you more history and information, but you can look this all up yourself on Google. Do so. It’s a fascinating musical work with an even more extraordinary history.

So there’s the first piece of my unpacking: a complicated, difficult piece of music to be sung and played. Of course, we were only doing various parts of it. To do it in its entirety would take much too much time; midnight snacks would have had to be brought in. Breakfast might have to be served. No, Messiah Sing-alongs are meant to be teasers, to show an audience just how magnificent the music is without depleting them of life itself. Send them away wanting more. Allow the musicians – the vocalists, the orchestra, the conductor – to perform another day after recuperating from what is a strenuous enterprise.

The second piece of this is that it’s a sing-along!! The city of Los Angeles has been doing Messiah Sing-along for decades; it started, as far back as I personally can remember, in the Dorothy Chandler and moved awhile back into the Disney Hall, and it is a stunning evening of great joy and acoustical splendor. Most of the people who come to this event are singers, choristers who have sung the music many times themselves, proudly carrying their battered and dog-eared scores to prove the battles of musicianship that they have been through. The audience is the choir, you see. There is an orchestra on stage, there are four soloists — bass, tenor, alto, soprano — and a conductor who keeps both the orchestra and the audience (choir) rhythmically in shape. Which, for Messiah, is no easy matter. The four parts move in and out of each other, and you have to have some skill to keep up. A conductor earns his keep at this event, I’ll tell you.

One of the last pieces: getting the word out to the community. Would people attend? Is there enough interest in this kind of music in a pop, rock and roll culture to bring them to the church for an evening, especially to an event that had never been tried before?

The answer was yes!

There was a substantial crowd in the church auditorium, more, I expect, than had been anticipated (at least on my part). And they were enthusiastic, especially when we were led in singing Christmas carols to get things going.

Then the Messiah music itself started, and there was magic in the air. It wasn’t a long performance, because, as I said, only selected pieces were performed. But the soloists were unbelievably good, professional quality, and their performances were met with enthusiastic applause. The orchestra was brilliant. The conductor was from Pepperdine University, and he was stellar.

If you weren’t there and you lived close enough to have been, you missed it. You missed a chance to sit back and hear some of the greatest music written in the last four hundred years, with words to stir your soul from the pages of the Bible itself. I was impressed by the number of children and young adults there; it did my heart good to see that they were being exposed to violins and cellos for an evening instead of drums and electric guitars. Yes, some of them fell asleep, but surely their ears were taking it all in!! I’d like to think that the next morning a young boy or girl approached his or her mother and said, “You know, I’d like to take Choir or study the violin next semester in school!” Subliminal advertising at its finest!!

For me it was an added treat and blessing because my daughter Dana was doing the alto solos, and I must say that she was magnificent. If you don’t believe me, find someone who was there and ask them. They’ll be more objective, but they’ll tell you the same thing. I promise you. A mother could die at the end of an evening like that and be happy!!! At least this mother. (I didn’t die, and I’m also happy about that.)

If the church decides to do Messiah Sing-along again next December, I would strongly suggest you put the date on your calendar as soon as it’s announced so that you don’t miss it. You will not regret it. You might also want to download a recording of Handel’s complete Messiah between now and next December so that you can become more familiar with the score; it helps immensely to recognize the pieces as they appear.


Music like this, unfortunately, has become rarer and rarer in our culture. This is a shame. So when a concert like this surfaces, I can only say, “Hallelujah!!”

From my house to yours, may your home this Christmas be filled with music and laughter and love. Put some elegant Christmas music on this Sunday while you’re with friends and family and let that be a part of your festivities and celebration. A bit of Handel wouldn’t be remiss!! But whatever you’re doing, Merry, Merry Christmas! I’ll write one more Rita’s Ramblings for 2016 before we start a new year!!




  1. Well said!!! I agree with every word.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Hi, Rita—We loved it too! And I would love to sing it next year. But it seems that my voice is gone forever–and that’s OK as long as I can hear beautiful music from others. Have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends. Love, Cathy

  3. Waa! I miss those days so much this time of year! I am so happy that Calvary has taken this challenge. So wonderful to bring this kind of culture to the local community.

    Our church here in CO performs the Messiah every other year and they do a pretty good job of it. Our choir sings and the orchestra and soloists are hired. It’s always a highlight.

    I would have LOVED to see and hear Dana sing. Thanks for sharing, Rita. And I have to ask, did you get your solo in this year?

    • No, no solos for me this time; I cautiously approach runs and rests with silence. Besides, I was surrounded by non-singers, so I was conservative. Did you get to hear Dana’s solo that Matt posted on Facebook? She was in fabulous voice and lush sounding. So very proud of her. Wish you could have been there in person.

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