Coro Sinfónico de Puerto Rico

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Messiah

G. F. Händel

A Christmas Musical Tradition

The Christmas season, more so than any other time of year, is celebrated with traditional activities. The days from Christmas to Epiphany are crowded with religious, social and family customs that set this period apart from the pace of the every-day world. Music plays an important role in all these traditions, whether its an asalto, (a Puerto Rican traditional practice whereby a group of friends arrives at your door, unannounced and usually at a late hour, singing Christmas songs) a family gathering or a sunrise mass. In many cities of the world, the performance during the holidays of the great oratorio Messiah is a time-honored practice. Composed by George Frideric Händel in 1742, this choral masterpiece was an immediate success and has retained its popularity for over 200 years. Its text was taken from the Scriptures, beginning with Old Testament prophecies and ending with the triumph of Christ's resurrection. Händel's masterful choral writing and the timeless message of the text combine to make Messiah an inspirational experience for audience and participants alike.

In cities throughout the United States, it has become popular to perform Messiah as a "sing-it-yourself" activity during the Christmas season. Singers from all walks of life who know the work come together at this time of year and perform in churches and concert halls with organ or orchestral accompaniment. The tradition has grown to include nationally televised productions from major concert halls with up to 3,000 singers! In 1981 the first "Messiah Sing-Along" Canturio in Puerto Rico was celebrated. James Rawie led the Puerto Rico Chamber Orchestra and chorus of volunteers from around the Island through one rehearsal, immediately followed by an enthusiastic concert held in the María Auxiliadora Church of Barrio Obrero, Santurce. Henry Hutchinson Negrón was the concertmaster, with Cecilia Talavera and Federico Silva as the continuo.

And so was born the Christmas Messiah tradition in Puerto Rico. The following year, maestro Rawie's newly founded Coro Sinfónico performed selections from Messiah in the San José Church of Old San Juan, and later performed a unique,choreographed version with Ballet Concierto. Each successive year Coro Sinfónico has repeated the immortal work in many locations, and the idea of a canturía has persisted, as singers throughout the Island who are not members of the Chorus have been invited to join Coro Sinfónico for a few rehearsals and the Messiah performances.

Special soloists who have participated in these presentations include sopranos Elaine Arandes, Zoraida López, Awilda Olivera and Diane Villafañe; altos Aileen Laracuente, Claudina Brinn, Evelina Quilichini and Jossie Perez; tenors Antonio Barasorda and José Ramón Torres and Carlos Seise; and basses Angelo Cruz, Abraham Lind and Carlos Serrano. Soprano Susan Pabón and mezzo soprano Carmen Cornier made their first San Juan Fine Arts Center appearances in productions of Messiah with the Coro Sinfónico. The Rosa-Bell Children's Chorus and Coro de Niños de Caguas participate frequently, while baritone Pablo Elvira and countertenor Thomas Mark Fallon participate as guest artists every other year. We hope you can join Coro Sinfónico, James Rawie, our soloists and the Filarmonía-Puerto Rico Chamber Orchestra in celebrating this Christmas tradition, which we hope will add immeasurably to your enjoyment of the season.

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For more information about the Coro Sinfónico de Puerto Rico, call 787-268-1768

last modified: October 6, 1999

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