‘Messiah’ returns for 28th year in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

‘Messiah’ returns for 28th year in Aspen

Joel Stonington

The Aspen and Glenwood Springs choral societies return to Aspen today and Saturday for the 28th annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”

The concerts start at 7:30 both nights at St. Mary Catholic Church and are free to the public. The performances are under the direction of music director and conductor Ray Vincent Adams.

“It’s like saying hi to a 28-year-old friend,” Adams said. “I feel blessed to be able to give this gift.”

This year is somewhat bittersweet for Adams because he has been sick for a good portion of it, he said after last weekend’s performance in Glenwood Springs.

“I’ve been putting off surgery for this for the last two months,” he said. “So when this is over I get to go take care of Ray.”

“It’s gratifying to actually be sitting on a tradition,” he said. “There’s transience inherent in Aspen, a tradition like this is important here.”

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Part of the tradition is that the performance has always been free.

“We don’t want to exclude anyone, especially for a financial reason,” he said. “We cram about 400-500 people into the church.”

The Aspen and Glenwood choral societies ask for a donation at the door, just to meet costs and keep it going from year to year.

Adams said that although the “Messiah” has three parts, the performance includes only one and then the chorus. “It’s more family-friendly,” he said, “not as long.”

Handel wrote the “Messiah” in 1741 during 24 days. The “hallelujah” chorus is one of the best-known in classical music and is a Christmas favorite.

“It’s hard not to oversing on the ‘hallelujah’ chorus, you just want to go, ‘yeah!'” Adams said with a big grin on his face, then adding with a rueful look, “though on Saturday night I let all hell break loose.”

He said that the fun is why so many talented musicians come to play. The orchestra is made up of the best local players augmented by various symphony players.

“It reminds them why they got involved in the first place,” he said, “they want a pick-me-up.”

Adams said the performances keep getting better.

“This year the music is really speaking to me,” he said. “If I’m lucky, I will get to conduct the 30th. There’s something about staring your own mortality in the face, well, the inherent joy has come back to speak to me.”

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com