LUSO and Choirs present Handel’s “Messiah”

Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra and Lawrence University Choirs in Memorial Chapel.
Photo by Angelica Hurtado.

On Friday April 21, Lawrence Memorial Chapel was swarming with concertgoers. Visitors, students and faculty flocked to the event to witness Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra (LUSO) and Lawrence University Choirs perform the famous piece, “Messiah.” This extremely long and daunting piece of music was tackled impressively well by each performer involved.

“Messiah,” by George Frideric Handel, is a three-part oratorio containing between four and seven scenes in each part. This lengthy piece spans about two hours, depending on how it is arranged. Conductor Mark Dupere, Assistant Professor of Music, took a few steady, deep breaths before beginning, each musician watching Dupere with the utmost confidence. Then, the performance began.

The string instrumentation was chillingly beautiful, captivating the audience from the downbeat of Part I. Within the choral pieces there were many solo performances. However, the strings persisted throughout. They were a steady backbone for both the rest of the orchestra and the choir, and their impressive musicianship allowed each soloist to thrive on the stage.

The choral sections produced an immediately likable and wholesome sound as well. The volume of the vocalists swelled in perfect unison with the dynamics of the orchestra before them. In the “Accompagnato” movement of Part I, it seemed that something was brewing within the strings, as sophomore baritone Alex Quackenbush sang a particularly outstanding solo. The dissonance in the strings resolved into a dramatic chorus in which the choir sang out many sforzando synonyms for “Lord.”

After an intermission, Part II began with a somber melody which contrasted with Part I. Each vocal soloist presented a different personality to the audience. Sophomore tenor Luke Honeck was featured multiple times; his voice had an immense and beautiful presence within the Chapel. This was followed by the famous chorus of “Hallelujah!” which the climax of the piece; the crowd rose to their feet as the movement began. The grandiosity of the horns added a fullness to the performance, and the crowd erupted into applause as Part II ended.

The third and final part began with a lovely solo by junior soprano Nicki Puskar. Similarly, an impressive solo by sophomore baritone Erik Nordstrom blew the audience away. This solo was complemented by freshman Ricardo Jimenez’s trumpet playing. In addition to the popular Hallelujah chorus that the audience adored, this movement seemed to be a crowd favorite.

True passion was exhibited by Dupere. As the concert came to an end, he smiled at the musicians as they bowed. Dupere raised his hands, gesturing towards everyone on stage. The soloists were presented, and the audience roared in excitement and adoration.

Luckily, Lawrence University has been performing “Messiah” fairly regularly since 1924, so if you did not catch this fantastic performance, hopefully you can experience its grandeur sometime in the near future.