This archived article was written by: Marsha Jensen
Each year in December, hundreds of thousands of people flock to witness the timeless classic production of the Messiah, a musical account of Jesus Christ’s life.
This year, the community of Price, along with the College of Eastern Utah choir students, will present the 60th anniversary performance of Handel’s Messiah. The music deals with the life of Jesus Christ, but conductor Russell Wilson mainly focuses on the pieces that talk about Christmas. And it’s a good thing too, because the whole Messiah production is three hours long, while Wilson’s performance is only an hour and a half.
The local Messiah performances began at the end of WWII, in 1948. The first conductor was Dorothy Brown, who directed the choirs at the college and at the local high school. Brown directed the Messiah for over 35 years before her death. The CEU Music Building is named after Dorothy and her husband Dean, another music educator, for their musical contributions to the community.
Conducting this year’s performance is Russell Wilson, CEU’s choir director. Wilson began his Messiah career when he was in ninth grade, by playing the french horn in the orchestra for the production. Since then he has been conducting it for the past 21 years. When asked why he continues with it year after year, he replied ” It’s a tradition. I pretty sure that Price has the longest record of hosting Messiah in the state of Utah. That’s 60 years and I don’t believe we’ve missed a year.” In actuality, Price is second for longest run of performances, with the Oratorio Society of Utah holding their 93rd annual performance this year.
The orchestra is made up of local musicians, band teachers, and instrument teachers. There have been professionals brought in, but most years the orchestra is made of people that live right here. Though the orchestra is quite large, only a third of the musicians can actually play in the Messiah, due to the small stage in the Civic Auditorium where the event is held.
If you happen to come this year, you will be in for a special treat. Conductor Russell Wilson will actually be singing one of the solos in the Messiah. The name of the piece is The Trumpet Shall Sound, which is a rare treat because Wilson usually likes to stay behind the scenes and let his students have the spotlight. He will be performing this difficult piece with professional trumpet player Dr. Daniel Thrower, who will be coming down from Salt Lake for the event.
The performances are sponsored each year by CEU and donations from local businesses that allow some of the players to be paid for their talents and help pay for the directions and outfits.
So you may ask: How can I get involved? Anyone and everyone is asked to join the choir. There are no tryouts, excepts for soloists, and anyone that can carry a tune is welcome to come and join in the festivities. Practices start around the end of October and are held on Sunday nights at 7:00 p.m. Also. there is a new event next year. Beginning in January, the community and school will be singing the Frostiana Requiem by Rutter. This is also an open choir and anyone is asked to come and join. As of yet, practices will still be held on Sunday at 7:00 p.m.. Any changes will be posted.
Many of you may find the Christmas spirit dwindling in your lives and want to get the spark back again. In the words of Wilson himself, “It’s lasted 240 years, That in and of itself is impressive. We must find some value in it … for it tells the Christmas story in the most elegant fashion. And its got the Hallelujah Chorus in it, which is a big part of Christmas for lots of people.”
So get in the spirit of the season by attending this year’s 60th annual Messiah performances on Sunday December 7th and Monday December 8th. at the Civic Auditorium. Admission is free, though parents are advised not to bring any children under the age of 12, as smaller toddlers and infants are more noisy than their older counterparts.