George Frideric Handel’s most beloved and acclaimed oratorio “Messiah” premiered on
April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland. That makes this enduring masterpiece exactly 275 years old.


On Saturday, April 8, singers from throughout Arizona will come to Sedona and celebrate “Messiah’s” 275th birthday by singing in the first all-Arizona “Messiah” Sing-Along, presented by the Sedona Conservatory.

“Any 275th birthday is a rare thing, an occasion for a big celebration,” Sedona conductor Russell Fox said. “And, when that celebration is for one of the towering masterpieces of Western culture, it’s time to drop everything, come to the Sedona Performing Arts Center, and sing it.”

Fox, founding director of the Sedona Conservatory, continued, “For all of Arizona’s various master chorales, university, community and symphony choruses, church choirs and everyone else who has ever sung or wanted to sing ‘Messiah,’ this is a unique opportunity to enjoy one of Western culture’s grandest musical monuments. And if you would just like to come and enjoy listening, you are also warmly welcomed.”

Most people associate performances of Handel’s “Messiah” with the Christmas season. Although Part I of the oratorio does center on the original Christmas story, Parts II and III deal with matters of life, death and the eventual joyous redemption of all humanity. Handel actually considered “Messiah” most appropriate for Lenten, pre-Easter performances.

In 1742, Handel could never have imagined the enduring popularity of “Messiah,” particularly in the modern format of a sing-along performance. which first gained popularity in the 1970s.

Continuing that experience, the singing audience will perform the choruses, with soloists from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona, a baroque orchestra and organ, all under the direction of Fox.

“We are fortunate to have the musical support of area choral ensembles, particularly the Verde Valley Voices, members of Flagstaff Master Chorale, NAU ensembles, and Verde Valley’s many fine church choirs,” Fox said.

“I’m often asked how a performance like this actually comes together. There’s no magic here, just a deep love for the stirring music. And for people of all faiths it’s the reflective pathos and abiding triumphant joy of the text. Most all of our singing audience will have performed ‘Messiah’ at some point in the past. Whether in a church choir, or a community or university chorus of some type, every choral musician has had the unforgettable thrill of singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ and that’s just one of ‘Messiah’s’ 19 great choruses. Basically, we are totally smitten by the choral experience, a condition from which we hope never to recover.”

Singers are asked to arrive by 4:30 p.m. to park, check in, refresh themselves and be in their seats before 5 p.m.
for their only rehearsal. During this one-and-a-half hour period, the singers’ diverse choral backgrounds will be united into a single, well-tuned, glorious ensemble.

At 7 p.m., joined by the soloists, orchestra and a few hundred expectant listeners, the celebratory performance will begin.

In the 18th and 19th centuries in Great Britain, most major performances of Handel’s “Messiah” were charitable fundraisers. Likewise, for the first all-Arizona “Messiah” Sing-Along all proceeds beyond production costs will be donated to Verde Valley charities serving those in need in the area.

Therefore, all singers are asked for a donation and for those coming to listen there is a suggested donation of $20 for adults and $10 for students. 

There will be a limited number of scores at the door to borrow for the evening. However, participants are encouraged to bring their own music to mark up and save for next year’s performance.

“On the SedonaConservatory.org website, there are several links for area sources in order to purchase your own score, and to learn how best to prepare for a singing experience you will treasure,” Fox said.

The 5 p.m. chorus rehearsal and 7 p.m. performance will be held Saturday, April 8, at the Sedona Performing Arts Center, located at Sedona Red Rock High School, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

For information, contact Fox at info@SedonaConservatory.org.