|Rosemary Thomson, music director and conductor with Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, and Jim Howie, trumpeter with OSO, will perform Handel's Messiah along with other members. Performances are slated for Thursday in Penticton, Friday and Saturday in Kelowna, and Sunday in Vernon.|
A large piece, Handel's Messiah is an inspirational and emotionally rousing production, a traditional concert guaranteed to get everyone into the true Christmas spirit.
"The magic of the chorus working together with our special guest artists and our symphony musicians will be a performance that makes the audience want to stand up and sing," said OSO conductor and music director Rosemary Thomson.
"It's a piece that isn't done yearly," she added. "It was the first concert I did with the orchestra, the Okanagan Festival Singers have done it before, but this is the second time for the OSO with me. It really is a master work and the string players in particular have a lot of playing."
Recalling her first encounter with the Messiah, Thomson added she first sang in a choir performing The Messiah at the age of seven, standing alongside her parents.
"It never gets stale, it's extraordinary music, an opportunity to reflect, to absorb the wonder and joy and - get out of the mall," she added.
In preparation for the size of The Messiah work, the symphony chorus has been in rehearsal since late summer and their enthusiasm on stage will be the motivation for the audience to be mesmerized by the scope of the production.
Performances will be held Thursday in Penticton, Friday and Saturday in Kelowna, and Sunday in Vernon.
Handel's work is renowned as one of the greatest and most popular works of all time, and as presented by the OSO, will feature four gifted soloists, some of whom have ties to the Okanagan.
On the list are sopranos Stephanie Nakagawa, who grew up in Salmon Arm; Lynne McMurtry, a Vernon resident; bass-baritone Gordon Bintner and tenor Jason Ragan.
"The four singers will provide a great deal of colour to the concert and it's important to have the range of voices, from the high quality of an angelic soprano to the robust baritone to instill the fear of God," said Thomson.
"Tenors are harder to find and Jason is a young artist from Alberta who has a wonderful warmth to his voice. Lynne has performed all over the world and brings a more mature, womanly quality with an experienced voice."
Bintner, whose family lives in Kelowna, has referred to opera as "an opportunity to transform ourselves, to bring drama to life through the beauty of sound and allows the audience to use their imagination and experience the drama."
The four singers will be joined by the 50-plus members of the chorus and offer a collaboration of music that touches a range of emotion,s from contemplative and glorious to joyous and uplifting.
"That concert will be a little shorter than the evening performances and promises to be a lot of fun as well," Thomson added.
There will be strategically placed singers from the chorus scattered among the audience to lead the sing-along, and those in attendance who are not inclined to join in will have the opportunity to just sit back with their families and enjoy the show.
"It's a different and relaxed kind of Messiah, something of a tradition in many places, and very enjoyable because it is a more casual approach," she added.
The sing-along will only be part of the OSO performance in the Kelowna Community Theatre venue during the afternoon dress rehearsal.
In the New Year, the OSO will open with the golden era of Viennese operetta, waltz and polka, again featuring four outstanding voices as soloists.
For those with a desire to fully enjoy a musical experience by taking part in a sing-along version of The Messiah, the Saturday afternoon performance will welcome all to join in by participating in the songs.
What: The Messiah, performed by the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, OSO chorus and with guest artists Stephanie Nakagawa, Lynne McMurtry, Jason Ragan and Gordon Bintner.
When & Where: Thursday, Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m., Penticton Cleland Theatre; Friday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., Kelowna Community Theatre; and Sunday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m., Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
A sing-a-long matinee will be held Saturday, Dec. 21, 2 p.m., at KCT.
Tickets: Available at Kelowna Actors Studio box office, 250-862-2867; Penticton Wine Information Centre, 250-276-2170; Vernon Performing Arts Centre, 250-549-7469; OSO online, okanagansymphony.com.