CEDAR CITY – The Sunday night opening performance of the Orchestra of Southern Utah’s 74th annual rendition of Handel’s “Messiah” brought the crowded Heritage Center Theater audience to its feet with its high-energy delivery of the centuries-old oratorio.
The free concert included both the Orchestra of Southern Utah and the Southern Utah Chorale, and was available to those smart enough to reserve their seats in advance – the exceptional production of a timeless classic ‘sold’ out more than a week before the event. The performance will be repeated Monday evening.
As the house lights dimmed and the stage sprang to life, the energetic maestro commanded the orchestra with power and decisiveness, leading each musician into a seamless harmony of sound. The ethereal blend of string, wind and percussion instruments gently yet forcefully intertwined with the voices of each soloist whose skillful performance thrilled an already captivated audience.
The 136-piece choral ensemble came together specifically for this OSU performance, and they wielded their expert voices with precision, creating a synergy that rippled through the room with spirited enthusiasm.
Continuing one breathtaking performance after another as the evening unfolded, each interpretation of the story of Christ the Messiah rang out into the open theater and reverberated through the room eliciting frequent applause from the audience – who had been asked earlier in the evening to hold all applause until the end of the program.
During the “Hallelujah” chorus, the entire audience leapt to their feet, showing honor and respect for the performance. Though there was no intermission, time flew by so fast that it was difficult to believe that almost two full hours had lapsed.
As the evening’s celebration of music and the life of Jesus Christ drew to a close, each of the solo performers lined the front of the stage for a standing ovation that continued for several minutes. The boisterous music director and conductor, Dr. Xun Sun, then took a step down from his podium and gestured towards the assembled vocalists and instrumentalists, as if to say ‘This applause is for them.’
The hard work and dedication of each and every performer who worked under the tutelage of both Sun and Choral Director Adrianne J. Tawa was rewarded by the delighted faces of the audience members, who once again rose in applause before gathering their jackets and preparing for the cold that awaited them outside.
Logan resident Robin Williams was in town visiting her daughter, and was invited to attend the performance by her daughter’s mother-in-law, a violinist in the ensemble. Of all of the pieces listed on the evening’s program, Williams said the “Hallelujah” chorus struck her the most deeply, and right in the heart.
“I thought it was fantastic,” she said. “It’s everything that I’ve ever… I just, I don’t even have words for it.”
When the entire audience stood during the “Hallelujah” chorus, there were quite a few puzzled concertgoers. Audience member Hal Cambell later explained the historic reason – centuries ago, King George II became tired during the performance and stood, causing all those in the audience to stand as well.
“Now we stand out of respect,” Campbell said. “And he may have been doing it out of respect too, we don’t know, but he did set the pace, yes.”
The 74th annual OSU presentation of Handel’s “Messiah” will be performed again Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Heritage Center Theater, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City. Tickets are free, but seats must be reserved. Reserved tickets not picked up by 7:15 p.m. will be released for those who arrive without a reservation.
- What: Orchestra of Southern Utah performs Handel’s Messiah
- When: Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Heritage Center, Cedar City
- Tickets: Free, available at the Heritage Center Box office, 105 North 100 East in Cedar City | Telephone 435-865-2882
- Orchestra of Southern Utah website
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