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It’s time for the Stony Brook Orchestra’s annual Messiah sing-along concert this weekend

Stony Brook Orchestra performing their annual Messiah Sing-Along a previous year. The sing-along tradition was created by students in the late 1970s. PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSAN DEAVER

Stony Brook University’s Department of Music is hosting its annual Messiah Sing-Along this Sunday, Dec. 10, at 4 p.m. at the Staller Center. This tradition started in the late 1970s by a graduate student and an undergraduate student. 

“This piece is truly a masterpiece and a beautiful work,” Susan Deaver, the conductor of the Stony Brook University Orchestra, said in an interview with The Statesman. “It’s sure to bring a lot of joy for the audience to become part of the show.”

The Messiah Sing-Along aims to be a festive experience with distinguished vocal soloists and guest conductors, all of whom will be accompanied by the University Orchestra. Consisting of around 75 undergraduate and graduate students, the orchestra will be divided into two chambers to ensure musical equilibrium between the orchestra and the vocalists. 

“With the support of the orchestra, my sound can excite the audience and create a happy and festive [atmosphere],” Shuqi Yang, a vocal soprano soloist who will be singing the famous aria “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion,” said.

This year, the orchestra will perform composer George Frideric Handel’s rendition of Messiah, which is scored for strings, oboes, bassoon, trumpets and timpani. Brass and percussion instruments will be featured in a third chamber — called the festive chamber — that will perform a pre-concert show beginning at 3:45 p.m. Messiah is broken up into three parts: the birth of Jesus, his death and his resurrection. The orchestra will only perform the first section due to the extensive length of the piece. 

“We have all new singers and with [the] exception of me, all the [guest] conductors are new too,” Deaver said. “And that makes it exciting. The orchestras also get configured in different ways too. It’s the same piece, but it’s always fresh.”

Auditions for the solo vocalists and conductors took place in mid-October. Each vocalist collaborates with the conductor and orchestra members to ensure they complement the overall sound.  

“The piece has a lot of technicalities and I refined [my sound] based on feedback from the conductor,” Yang said. “Even though the piece is challenging, it’s very enjoyable and, as an international student, special to me.”

Yang will not only perform “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion,” but also a duet with fellow vocalist Wanmei Zhang, who specializes in mezzo-soprano for the piece “He Shall Feed His Flock.

“I originally was only going to sing ‘Rejoice Greatly,’ but the conductor recommended that I sing a duet and I immediately said yes,” Yang said. “I love singing these pieces and I am excited to show the audience a comparison in my voice.”

Yang hopes the audience will feel a joyous and cheerful energy from her solo performance. However, the duet with Zhang is intended to evoke a more reflective and grateful feeling. It includes a smoother, more soothing melody compared to her solo. 

During the chorus of each song, the audience is invited to sing along. For those without a vocal score for Messiah, they will be available for $10 at the door; however, it’s not required to sing. 

“Some people just want to be there to listen. That’s okay,” Deaver said. “That’s the real drawing power, the music. Just like [how] art is very powerful, this concert has this beautiful piece and [audience] involvement.”

The Messiah Sing-Along is free admission and open to the general public.

 

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About the Contributor
Jenna Zaza, Arts & Culture Editor
Jenna Zaza is The Statesman's Arts and Culture Editor. She is a second-year journalism major with a minor in Korean studies and on the fast-track MBA program. When she is not writing, she is probably reading a book with a cup of coffee in hand.
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