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A Handel on the vocals: A chorus of voices expected for Sing-It-Yourself-Messiah

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:57 pm

FAIRBANKS — If Saturday’s vocal holiday tradition holds true, expect a packed house and standing room only when the Fairbanks Choral Society hosts its annual Sing-It-Yourself-Messiah.

For 33 years now, former UAF music professor Suzanne Summerville has taken up the task of leading Fairbanks in the program, which literally invites anyone who wants to sing Handel’s “Messiah” to join in the chorus of voices. Different soloists take the stage during parts of the program, with the audience following the soloists’ leads. It’s a vocal sensation that has changed little in 33 years, except that it’s grown in participation and popularity with Fairbanks.

“Very little had changed over the years, and we’ve added just a few things,” Summerville said of the production. “In the early years, we performed just the main portions. In recent years, we’ve added more parts. What is different is the number of different soloists we have.”

Nine soloists will lead the singers in Handel’s “Messiah,” with each soloist taking the stage during various scenes. Musically, you’ll hear trumpets, timpani and an organ. The event culminates with the famed “Hallelujah” chorus.

When it started 33 years ago, the event was small. Now, it’s grown to nearly a sanctuary full of Fairbanksans joining in. Last year, First Presbyterian Church, where the concert takes place, was at full capacity. And even if you can’t sing, Summerville stresses you’re still welcome to attend. Often, visitors come to sing, just read the words or sit silent and enjoy the music.

“It’s gracious what people tell me about it, all these incredible stories,” Summerville said. “That is so important to me. You can hardly think what it’s like to stand there and conduct the ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ ”

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at @FDNMfeatures.

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