Forget YouTube: This year hear the Hallelujah chorus in the flesh at the Peterborough Singer’s Messiah

An annual tradition, but never the same. Familiar, but never predictable. Intimate, yet majestic. “Absorbing,” “exhilarating,” “fresh,” “unifying.” And above all else, a beloved and soul-nourishing “ritual,” without which the Christmas season would be incomplete.

This is how the 100-plus members of the Peterborough Singers have described their annual Handel’s Messiah concert. This year the Singers will present The Messiah at a matinee performance on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 3:00 pm, with another performance the following evening, Dec. 15, at 7:30 pm. Both of the performances will take place at George St. United Church.

“Tens of millions of people have watched and shared YouTube videos of the Hallelujah chorus from The Messiah being performed in shopping malls and other unexpected locations,” said the Peterborough Singers’ artistic director, Syd Birrell. “And it’s no secret why. The Hallelujah chorus is the jewel in the crown of The Messiah. It’s impossible to listen to it without being moved, even if it’s just on your tinny laptop or iPod speakers.

“And yet, as awesome as those videos are, there’s no substitute for being there in the flesh while 100 singers sing their hearts out, the organ literally shakes the building to its foundation, and hundreds of audience members stand spell-bound, united by the magnificence of Handel’s composition. It, quite literally, takes your breath away.”

“For me, Christmas simply isn’t complete without it,” Birrell continues.

Birrell also expressed excitement about the roster of soloists for this year’s Messiah.

Soprano Pamela Birrell was born and raised in Peterborough and has an Honours degree from Trent and a first class honours Performers Associateship Diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. In addition to her work teaching vocal music, she is an active advocate for families facing childhood cancer and women facing breast cancer. Pamela was Music Director for the stunning production of the St James Players “Les Mis,”  that recently played at Showplace. Pamela has been inducted into the Peterborough Walkway of Fame in recognition of her many contributions to the City of Peterborough.

Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Laura Pudwell’s reputation as a superb vocalist has been well established as a result of her performances in London, Paris, Salzburg, Houston, Vienna, and Boston. Her vast repertoire ranges from early music to contemporary works.

Canadian baritone Michael Adair has established himself in Germany as an elegant interpreter of Bach and a regular on the European concert circuit after debuting in Israel in Egypt with Helmuth Rilling and the Gächinger Kantorei.  He has appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Berliner Phiharmonie, and sings regularly at his home hall, the Cologne Philharmonie.

And finally, Canadian tenor Colin Ainsworth has distinguished himself as an up-and-coming tenor by his exceptional singing and diverse repertoire. Acclaimed for his interpretations of the major Classical and Baroque tenor repertoire, Ainsworth has performed many title roles, including in Orphée et EuridicePygmalionCastor et Pollux, Roberto Devereu, and Albert Herring.

“For some time I have been wanting to bring Colin to Peterborough, but his success on the international scene has made that difficult,” said Birrell. “Bingo!  This year we made it work, and we welcome Colin to his first performance with the Singers.”

As always, the Singers will be anchored by Juno-winning organist Ian Sadler. Ian’s recording discography is extensive, with eight solo organ CDs and over 35 choral CD recordings on current release. For his dedication to promoting the organ and Canadian music, both at home and abroad, The Royal Canadian College of Organists honoured Ian in 2007 with its highest award, “Fellow of The Royal Canadian College of Organists.”

Other supporting artists for this year’s Messiah include Paul Otway and Doug Sutherland on the trumpet and Stan Ewing on the timpani.