Peterborough: Veterans of group performance return with holiday favorite Saturday
Handel’s ‘Messiah’ makes comeback
Veterans of group performance bringing holiday favorite back, this time to Peterborough
After a gap of two years, the stirring sounds of “Messiah” will be once again herald the holiday season when a group of veterans from many years of performances at Franklin Pierce University once again present George Frideric Handel’s famous oratorio, this time in Peterborough.
“We had been doing it at Franklin Pierce for at least 30 years,” says Margaret Carlson of Hancock, one of the organizers of the performance. “David Brandes was the conductor and leader. When they said it would be the last time, the singers were just horrified. We started right away to plan a performance. It’s taken a lot of time, and this is a small beginning.”
About 60 singers and musicians from around the region will gather Saturday at Union Congregational Church in Peterborough for small group rehearsals, a full rehearsal led by conductor Jeff Fuller and a box supper, followed by the free performance at 7:30 p.m. The concert will last a bit more than an hour.
“All these people are alumni of the Franklin Pierce performances,” Carlson says. “They all know the music. They all have their own scores.”
While the group will be smaller than the Franklin Pierce chorus, which sometimes had more than 300 singers, Carlson says everyone is excited to be singing again.
“We have a wonderful conductor, Jeff Fuller, who is the musical director at Episcopal church in Peterborough. Our accompanist, Mary Ann Fleming, is the organist for Union Congregational. We have a string quartet from Francestown and a great group of soloists.”
The quartet will perform the opening prelude and the pastoral symphony in the middle section of the program. Quartet members are Richard Wharton, cello; Russell Gebhart, viola; Aurora Pearson, first violin; and Clelie Fielding, second violin.
“Aurora and Clelie are both high school seniors. We’re very happy to have some young people involved,” Carlson says.
Soloists will be alto Pamela Stevens, tenor Rick Simpson, basses Stephen Smillie and Tom Cochran, and soprano Samantha McCloghry, a Keene State senior who is one of Stevens’ students.
Carlson says arranging the performance was a group effort.
“David Brandes gave us the list of people who sang, and we wrote to all those who live in the area. Jody Simpson, Peggy Brown, Richard Sanders, Sarah Burt and Bob Johnson all helped. Steven Smith and Barbara Summers will be helping arrange the rehearsals. We have a wonderful church contributing their space.”
The performers themselves are helping to subsidize this first concert, in the hope that it can become an annual event.
“We had no money,” Carlson says. “We decided that if each singer paid $15, we’d have the beginning of a small bank account. They all said yes. They are paying to make this happen.”
While donations at the door will be welcome, the performance will be free.
“That was always the tradition at Franklin Pierce,” Carlson says. “We want to make it open for anyone who wants to come.”