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UVa McIntire Department of Music Holds 46th Annual "Messiah" Sing-In

By: Ruth Morton Email
By: Ruth Morton Email

December 10, 2013

The UVa McIntire Department of Music held its 46th annual Messiah Sing-In on Tuesday night.

Community members, students, faculty came together to sing and play Handel's Messiah.

The sing-in took place in UVa's Old Cabell Hall.

Retired UVa music professor Donald Loach conducted the singers and musicians. He's conducted every year since he founded the tradition in 1968, one of the first in the nation.

"Everything's volunteer. Nobody's trained. There are no rehearsals. The orchestra arrives. Those who wanna play, show up," said Loach.

Participants for the sing-in sat in sections arranged according to vocal part -- soprano, alto, tenor, baritone. The orchestra sat on the stage.

"It's just this amazing event that Don started almost 50 years ago. It gives everybody a chance almost regardless of level of musical ability, to sing and participate in Handel's fantastic masterwork Messiah," said Michael Slon, the UVa Director of choral music and professor in the music department. Slon played harpsichord during the sing-in.

"It's been going strong. Get's stronger every year!" said Loach, laughing.

Loach said the night helps kick off the holiday season.

"For some people it sort of introduces the season for them," said Loach, continuing on to say that holiday concerts "get people into the spirit of Christmas and get them going."

Loach began the night by having the singers stand and massage the shoulders of the person to their right, then left, and to introduce themselves to those neighbors. He sharply tapped his baton intermittently during the night to stop the singers and musicians,give notes, and have them begin again. Between pieces, he gave background on Handel's oratori.

Loach continually caused people in the crowd to smile and laugh.

"I think music builds community, you know, when we do it either with our ensembles at UVa or with the community," said Slon. "It's kind of a massive musical community formed around this beautiful piece by Handel."

Proceeds from the night benefited UVa's choral ensembles.

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