A tradition of beautiful song; Familiar faces return with ASO’s performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’

Published 10:08 am Thursday, December 10, 2015

By Millie Masse

Sweet Sounds

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” — John Keats

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There is an opportunity to be immersed in beauty at 2 p.m. on Sunday at St. Augustine Church when the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and soloists will present Handel’s “Messiah.” The power of this beloved musical offering is magnified by the beauty of St. Augustine’s architecture and stained glass windows as well as by the feeling of community this experience offers.

When the first sweet sounds reverberate on Sunday, there will be a number of people participating whose faithfulness in this community endeavor goes back to the first performance of “Messiah” by the Austin Symphony and Chorus 50 years ago. Pat and Bob Dahl and Priscilla Golly were members of the chorus in that first-ever performance and will be singing in the chorus again this year! In fact, out of the 23 times the Austin Symphony has performed “Messiah,” Priscilla Golly has sung 13 times, Bob and Pat Dahl 12 times, Dale Odegaard 15 times, Bob Finneseth 11 times, Paul Wahlstrom seven times, Marlene Frankson, and Alice Holst, and Pam Koser six times. And in the orchestra are two musicians who have played in all “Messiah” performances since 1971: Sue Radloff, first chair first violin, and Sue Franklin, first chair cello. Enriching artistic experiences like “Messiah” wouldn’t be possible without the support of these people and many other faithful musicians who continue to generously share their musical gifts.

Sonia Larson is another musician who has participated in every ASO performance of “Messiah” since 1971; 14 times as soloist — both alto and soprano. In 1997 Sonia became the Chorus Director and has served in that capacity ever since. Under her leadership the chorus has rehearsed twice a week since October. In addition to the 63 member chorus are a number of very gifted soloists from our community:

Soprano: Natalie Bunnell, Pam Koser, Mandie Siems

Alto: Morgan Dickman, Julie Schiek,

Tenor: Benjamin Mahlke, Bradley Weber

Bass: Bradley Carlton, Neil Erickson, David Koser, Brad Nelson

Adding to the wonder of “Messiah” is the fact that it was composed by Handel in just 24 days. So engrossed was he in his task of composing that he did not leave his room once during that time, even demanding that all his meals be brought to him. On one occasion, just after Handel had finished composing the famed “Hallelujah Chorus,” his servant saw tears and heard him remark, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”

Leading us all in this inspiring experience will be Stephen Ramsey, in his 21st year as Austin Symphony Conductor.

Tickets are available online at www.austinmnsymphony.org for $12. They will be available at the door for $15.