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 simply be incomplete.
This is how some of the 100+ members of the Peterborough Singers have described their annual Handel’s Messiah concert. This year the Singers will present Messiah on Monday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 pm.
“I find this piece of music is so fresh and wonderful every time we sing it,” says director Syd Birrell. “I’m moved to tears every time, whether by a solo or the choir. Somehow every piece is a hit.”
The core of the Singers’ beloved annual Messiah concert is always reliably consistent: over 100 voices, many of whom have been singing the oratorio for decades, organ superstar Ian Sadler working his wizardry on Emmanuel United Church’s powerful Casavant organ, and – of course – Handel’s rightfully world-famous score.
What changes every year, however, is the roster of vocal soloists who bring to life the Messiah’s famous airs and recitatives. And this year, audience members are in for a major treat.
“Normally, music lovers would have to go to the leading venue in a major metropolis to hear Canadian opera stars Benjamin Butterfield and Daniel Taylor,” says Birrell. “But over the last few years we’ve been blessed to forge a close working relationship with the pair. They love singing with us, and we love having them. I’m thrilled to announce that Butterfield and Taylor will be joining us for this year’s Messiah performance.”
Praised by the New York Times as “clarion-voiced and vibrant,” tenor Benjamin Butterfield is known for his performances at venues including Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (Haydn’s Creation) and at Lincoln Center with the American Classical Orchestra, among many others.
Meanwhile, Sony Classical artist, countertenor Daniel Taylor has performed for Canadian prime ministers, for the Queen of England, for the King and Queen of Sweden, and for the King and Queen of Spain. He has appeared on more than 100 recordings, and his projects have been recognized by a GRAMMY as well as with the JUNO, OPUS, and ADISQ prizes.
Also joining the Singers will be Peterborough soprano Shannon McCracken. McCracken is a graduate in Voice Performance from Wilfrid Laurier University and is an alumnus of both the Banff Centre’s Musical Theatre Professional Intensive program and the Theatre 20 Conservatory. (Read more about this remarkable local talent.)
Finally, baritone Geoffrey Sirett has emerged as one of Canada’s finest young baritones, highly sought after across the country for a wide range of operatic and concert repertoire. The winner of several awards and prizes, Sirett has many recent notable performances, including his debut on the Four Seasons Centre stage in the Canadian Opera Company production of Arabella, the role of Captain Corcoran in Edmonton Opera’s H.M.S Pinafore, and a performance in Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the Toronto Symphony.
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 on the trumpet and Stan Ewing on the timpani.
Birrell echoes the consensus of audience members and long-time choristers alike: “For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Messiah.”