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Holiday tradition unites voices

The holiday season is all about tradition. For some, it’s about making special meals, visiting far-flung relatives, or decking the halls in whimsical ways. But for others, no holiday is complete without belting out an aria or two from George Frideric Handel’s choral masterpiece, The Messiah. Thanks to the Queen’s School of Music’s Messiah Sing-a-Long, the opportunity to do just that is close at hand.

Queen's students and faculty members will serve as soloists at Friday's Messiah Sing-A-Long. (University Communications)

While traditionally held in the modest foyer of Harrison-LeCaine hall, this year’s Sing-a-Long event will take place in the spacious lobby at the Isabel. It will be the first time the glassed-in space in the university’s brand new arts building will play host to its own musical event.

“That lobby is a place just waiting for music to happen in it,” says Margaret Walker, Director of the School of Music. “I think it will be an excellent acoustic to sing in. I think the voices will go right to the top off those glass walls and reverberate. And whatever the lake is doing outside those windows always enhances anything.”

The Sing-a-Long provides an opportunity for Queen’s students, staff, and faculty, as well as members of the Kingston community, to join together in singing excerpts from the Handel’s popular oratorio, which is frequently performed at Christmas. An orchestra of volunteer student musicians, under the direction of Gordon Craig, accompanies the singers.

“It’s not rehearsed a whole lot,” laughs Dr. Walker. “Whoever is available joins in, and we have a big pile of Messiah score songbooks that we hand out.”

She says students and faculty members who are familiar with the oratorio, which was composed in 1741, will serve as soloists, organized and coached by voice professor Bruce Kelly. Rather than singing all 53 movements, the Sing-a-Long session focuses on popular excerpts, like the “Hallelujah Chorus”.

Dr. Walker says the Sing-a-Long event has long been a popular tradition at Queen’s.

“One year it was cancelled because of a programming conflict, and as we got into November our students noticed that it wasn’t on the calendar. They decided it had to happen, so they got together with a couple faculty members and threw one together. It’s that important!”

She says she hopes the new venue will provide lots of room for people to let their voices ring out.  “It’s really for fun and celebration.”

The Messiah Sing-a-Long takes place on Friday, Nov. 28 at 2:30pm in the lobby of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, 390 King St. W. All are welcome. Musical scores will be available for use. For more information visit the website of the Queen’s School of Music.