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Arts & Extras: Roanoke College Choir to perform ‘Messiah’
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Jeffrey Sandborg can’t say for certain that the Roanoke College Choir will be performing Handel’s “Messiah” for the first time in its history on Dec. 16.
“My predecessors never talked about having done it here,” he wrote in an email.
But he can say it’s the first time in the 28 years he’s been the choir’s director.
Technically it’s not the entire composition, just Part I, the movement that deals with the Nativity, which is traditionally performed at Christmastime with the famous “Hallelujah chorus” added on, a tradition the Roanoke College Choir will keep.
Even incomplete, “it’s a tremendous masterpiece that our kids can sing for the rest of their lives,” he wrote.
Why now? One reason is that it gives Sandborg and his students a chance to work with Steven White, the former Opera Roanoke artistic director who’s now conducting for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
“ I knew that our students would be enriched by the experience; me too!” he wrote. “While probably enjoying a break from me, I know they will grow as singers, musicians and human beings while working on a masterpiece with someone who has conducted many of the greatest musicians in the world.”
The singers’ enthusiasm for the new material shows, White wrote in an email.
“So they bring a freshness to the experience — a quality for which even the most seasoned performers are constantly striving,” White wrote.
The event marks another first for the Roanoke College Choir — the first time they’ve ever charged for a concert.
Sandborg’s ambitions seem fairly modest by today’s terms. “Our goal is to sell 700 tickets, the number of people who were at the Dublin premiere 270 years ago.” As of Wednesday, more than 500 had sold.
Traditionally the choir has performed free Christmas concerts that raise funds for Roanoke Area Ministries. Their most recent Lessons & Carols concert took place Nov. 25. “It’s a challenge to learn all of the music and then squeeze in another performance … this piece being particularly challenging.”
Sandborg believes the effort was worth it and hopes the audience will agree.
Opera singer Scott Russell, a Roanoke native, will sing the bass solo parts, Opera Roanoke General and Artistic Director Scott Williamson will sing tenor and Marianne Sandborg, Jeffrey’s wife and a Roanoke College resident artist, will sing soprano.
The program will also contain four pieces by J.S. Bach, including a violin concerto featuring Roanoke Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Akemi Takayama.
The performance takes place 3 p.m. Dec. 16 in the Shaftman Performance Hall at Jefferson Center. Tickets $14-$34; students $12. For more information, call 345-2550 or visit jeffcenter.org/rccmessiah.
Roanoke resident and proud mom Barbara Dickinson wrote me a letter, on paper yet, to let me know about her daughter Hilary King, an Atlanta poet and writer who had a play, “The Jennifer Bourne Identity,” produced in TBG Theater in Manhattan on Dec. 1 as part of EstroGenius 2012, a month-long arts festival billed as “a celebration of female voices.”
The play offers a wry satire of the Jason Bourne espionage films. The tagline goes, “Jennifer Bourne keeps getting flashbacks to her past. Who was she before she became an ultra-efficient, modern multi-tasking mom?”
King, 46, worked as a research librarian for CNN before turning to writing, Dickinson said. Her previous publications have mostly been poems. “The playwriting is news to me, but I am justifiably PROUD of her!” Dickinson wrote.
King’s family traveled to New York to see the play. “It was well-received,” Dickinson said. “We were all thrilled with it.”
Hollins dancer honored
A recent Hollins University graduate was one of four dancers to be honored with a 2012 Dance Magazine Award.
Washington, D.C., native Renee Robinson earned a master of fine arts degree in dance from Hollins this fall, but she already had a prestigious resume beforehand. She’s a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, a company she joined in 1981. According to the company’s website, she’ll be giving a farewell performance today before retiring.
She performed at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, danced in the PBS special “A Hymn for Alvin Ailey” and returned to the White House in 2008 to perform in a dance event hosted by Michelle Obama.
The Dance Magazine Award honors professionals who’ve made extraordinary contributions to the field.
On the Arts blog
Check out a new co-op gallery in Bedford and follow other arts and culture happenings at blogs.roanoke.com/arts.
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