NSO to perform Handel's 'Messiah' at Basilica, and in Bonavista

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Legend says that a servant bringing food to George Frederick Handel while he was composing "Messiah's" "Hallelujah Chorus" in 1741 walked into the room to find Handel trembling with emotion, saying, "I thought I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself!"

At last year's Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO) performance of the same piece, the production seemed to touch an audience member the same way. As the chorus, performed at the Basilica by the 90-member philharmonic choir and 30-member orchestra, was reaching its climax, one man yelled, "Yes, b'y!"

The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra will perform Handel's "Messiah" at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's Friday and Saturday, and at Memorial United Church in Bonavista Sunday. - Submitted photo

Legend says that a servant bringing food to George Frederick Handel while he was composing "Messiah's" "Hallelujah Chorus" in 1741 walked into the room to find Handel trembling with emotion, saying, "I thought I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself!"

At last year's Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO) performance of the same piece, the production seemed to touch an audience member the same way. As the chorus, performed at the Basilica by the 90-member philharmonic choir and 30-member orchestra, was reaching its climax, one man yelled, "Yes, b'y!"

"That was unusual," conductor Douglas Dunsmore said with a chuckle. "You don't really expect that, but it moved something in him. Everyone smiled at it."

The NSO will perform Handel's "Messiah" for the 22nd year in a row this weekend, both in St. John's at the Basilica and in Bonavista at Memorial United Church.

The Bonavista performance will herald the long-awaited re-opening of the community's Garrick Theatre, currently under renovation and expected to open in the spring.

Named after David Garrick, an 18th-century pioneer of English theatre, the theatre originally opened on Christmas Day in 1945 and hosted both live performances and films. The theatre closed in 2000 and was donated to the Bonavista Historical Society three years later.

"We already have the building restored on the exterior, and all the funding is in place for the rest, with the exception of our own fundraising. We have to raise $210,000," explained Melissa Boyce, general manager of the Bonavista Historic Townscape Foundation.

Raising funds

NSO's performance will contribute to the fundraising, with proceeds being split between the theatre and Memorial United.

Once it's reopened, the Garrick will again host live performances and movies.

"We have done a lot of work on heritage areas, and this is another piece of the puzzle," Boyce said. "It will mean a lot for the quality of life in the area in terms of having something to do, and it will be for all ages."

Boyce said ticket sales for the Bonavista performance have been going well, with people from as far away as Gander and St. John's planning to attend.

Dunsmore said the NSO is equally as excited to perform in the community.

"We did it (in 1996) and we did one in Corner Brook and one in Grand Falls, and it's been more than 10 years since we've gone somewhere. Every year, people say, 'Are we going somewhere?' And every year it's, 'No, no, no,'" he said.

"When we went out there last time, they welcomed us with open arms and we had a full building and a potluck supper afterwards, and came home feeling not only spent, but happy, because the community really appreciated something coming out beyond the overpass. It's a wonderful outing and we're really pleased to go."

The performance will feature four guest soloists: soprano Wendy Nielsen, mezzo-soprano Christianne Rushton, tenor Jonathan Reed and baritone Calvin Powell.

The NSO will perform Handel's "Messiah" at the Basilica Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and at Memorial United Church in Bonavista Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 722-4441, and won't be available at the door for the St. John's performances.

tbm@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, Memorial United Church, Garrick Theatre English theatre Bonavista Historical Society Bonavista Historic Townscape Foundation

Geographic location: Bonavista, St. John's, Gander Corner Brook Grand Falls

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