Massive Music

Menomonie Singers take on Handel’s masterpiece

Lauren Fisher, photos by Timothy Mather

THEY CAN HANDEL IT. The Menomonie Singers will perform a portion of Handel’s Messiah later this month.
THEY CAN HANDEL IT. The Menomonie Singers will perform a portion of Handel’s Messiah later this month.

Hallelujah! It’s polyphonic, it’s melismatic, it’s jubilant and ecstatic: It’s Handel’s Messiah. The Menomonie Singers are in the final stretch of preparation for their spring concerts, during which they will take on the second part of Handel’s musical exploration of the Christian Savior. Though the second part of the work is less frequently performed than the first section, audiences will immediately recognize the “Hallelujah Chorus” – and may even sing along.

“It’s been a challenge, but there’s so much there to chew on, to really get your juices flowing.” – Julian Schmidt, Menomonie Singers

In her first year as the ensemble’s director, Amy Vogt has found the Menomonie Singers are eager, high-level musicians capable of taking on a piece as complex and full of vocal acrobatics as Messiah. “Polyphonic,” she explained, refers to a piece in which the parts enter and end at different times throughout a song, while “melismatic,” means that single syllables of lyric are sung over many different notes. (Think of the Christmas tune, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”) To top it all off, there are seven solos peppered throughout the show.

“It’s been a challenge, but there’s so much there to chew on, to really get your juices flowing,” Juliana Schmidt, the ensemble’s founder and treasurer, said. “It’s a real honor, a privilege to get to explore this music.” Schmidt, who sings alto, is delighted by the rehearsals and the choir’s enthusiasm for the music.

“We’ve really been doing a good job of working on performance practices that are authentic to the baroque time period,” Vogt said. Pronunciation and tone will be key to providing a listening experience that is true to the style Messiah was written in. Music buffs can double-down on the educational component a half hour before each performance with a brief lecture and Q&A session led by Vogt and her husband, Sean, who will accompany the choir on the organ for the performance.

Now in its 30th year, the Menomonie Singers is made up of 31 individuals from many different backgrounds, from music to education and law. Schmidt is always recruiting new talent, and hopes to expand the ensemble to 40 members.

Those who aren’t ready to commit just yet can join in for the Hallelujah Chorus. Sheet music will be available for the movement.

“That’s become kind of a passion of ours,” Vogt said of the sing-along. “To encourage people to have more singing in their lives, and that includes opportunities to sing with us.”

Both concerts are free of charge, to keep the performance accessible to the community, although a $10 donation is suggested. The first show will take place April 27 at the First Presbyterian Church (130 W Central St., Chippewa Falls) at 7:30pm. The April 28 show will be at Our Saviors Lutheran Church (910 Ninth St E., Menomonie) at 2pm. Pre-show talks will begin a half an hour before each show. For more information, visit themenomoniesingers.org.