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Chorus to perform ‘Messiah’

Hae-Jong Lee calls George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” one of the greatest orchestral compositions in the history of western music.

The Warren Civic Chorus will continue a tradition that dates back more than 60 years, performing the oratorio at two concerts Sunday at Blessed Sacrament Church.

“Handel’s music, there is no comparison to any other composer maybe, except for (Johann Sebastian) Bach,” Lee said. “Handel brings the highest level of compositional technique.”

Lee, an associate professor at Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music and conductor of the Dana Chorale and Stambaugh Chorus, is in his seventh year leading the Warren chorus, and he said the singers’ history working with him is reflected in the quality of the performance.

“The majority have been singing with me several years,” he said. “They grasp my approach rather quickly than years ago. Each year I get higher standard, higher musical accomplishment.”

Warren Civic Chorus first performed the 1742 composition 63 years ago at Turner Junior High School Auditorium in Warren. The move of the Dana School of Music from Warren to Youngstown and financial difficulties led to some years being skipped, but the performances have continued uninterrupted since 1973, when John Kurtz revived the tradition and remained it director for nearly 40 years.

The oratorio covers Christ’s birth, crucifixion and resurrection. While the second and third parts of the work may be more associated with Easter, “Messiah” more commonly is performed during the Christmas season.

“The longest portion is part one, almost a full one hour, and it is solely about birth, about Christmas,” Lee said. “I think that could be the reason.”

Some groups just perform part one, Lee said. He does some editing to the second and third parts of the oratorio, but WCC will do the full work.

“I try to deliver the whole picture without extending the concert too long,” he said.

The chorus will be joined by musicians from the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and guest soloists Brianne Samson, soprano; Emily Buttram, mezzo-soprano; Victor Cardamone, tenor; and Max Pivik, bass.

The 7 p.m. concert also will include a performance by WC4, the Warren Civic Chorus Children’s Choir.

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