Voices of Omaha Presents Its 41st Annual Performance Of Handel's MESSIAH 12/6

The Voices of Omaha presents its 41 st annual performance of Handel's oratorio Messiah in the Holland Performing Arts Center's Kiewit Concert Hall on Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 3:00 PM.

This concert is free and open to the public. Conducted by new artistic director Edward Hurd, more than 135 singers will be joined by professional soloists AnneDeVries, soprano; Janet Carlsen Campbell, mezzo-soprano; Paul Koenig, tenor; and Terry Hodges, bass-baritone.

An orchestra drawn from among Omaha's finest musicians will accompany the performance. "The marvelous acoustic of the Kiewit Concert Hall was designed for music such as this," said Hurd. "No microphones or amplification - just singers and instrumentalists performing in a wonderful space just as did Handel.

The performance will be as true to the Baroque style of Handel's time as possible." Vocal ornamentation provided bythe soloists will be based on historically accurate performance practice and the orchestra will accompany the performance in their most authentic Baroque style. Even the harpsichord will be tuned using a historic method.

"Use of ‘equal temperament' in tuning keyboard instruments such as the piano and organ, has only been common practice for the past 150 years or so; every chord is a little bit, but "equally" out of tune and they all sound pretty much the same. We just don't hear or recognize the chords as being out-of-tune chords, these days," Hurd explained. "For this performance, the harpsichord will be tuned in a style used in Handel's time which favors the most commonly heard chords and enhances in a subtle way the authenticity of style and beauty of sound."

Voices of Omaha's first performance of Messiah took place December 14, 1969, in the Omaha Civic Auditorium, with Leota Sneed Strong conducting a chorus of over 135 voices accompanied by orchestra. Charter member Sharon Struve recalled, "I remember the arena filled with such an appreciative audience. I remember the excitement in the air. I remember the bass soloist who arrived after the performance had begun and insinuated himself through the choir and crowded past the playing violins to reach his chair in the front!"

Artistic directors to follow Strong were: Thomas Brantigan, Michael Dryver, Z. Randall Stroope, Greg Zilke, and Stanley E. Schmidt. About Voices of Omaha Over the past 40 years, the all-volunteer Voices of Omaha has performed Messiah with orchestra and soloists in a variety of large local venues: Omaha Civic Auditorium, Orpheum Theater, Music Hall, and Witherspoon Concert Hall at the Joslyn Museum.

They began performing in the Kiewit Concert Hall of the Holland Performing Arts Center in 2007. Fundraising to support its annual gift to the community of a Messiah performance has grown over the years. Voices of Omaha was incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization in 1970. A $20 membership fee helps pay minimal gratuities for soloists, orchestra, and artistic director.

"Additional funding is received from a free-will offering and sales of Red Wheel products," said Steve Laire, president of the Voices of Omaha board of directors. "I have never seen a more enthusiastic and dedicated bunch of people as the Voices of Omaha singers. For the 2009 performance, public and private grants were received from Nebraska Arts Council & Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Paul and Oscar Giger Foundation, Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation, and Whitmore Charitable Trust.

About Edward Hurd, Artistic Director Voices of Omaha welcomes Edward B. Hurd in his first season as artistic director. He is an accomplished singer and organist, withwide experience conducting around the world. A native of Portland, Oregon, Hurd became very familiar withbaroque musical style and Messiah in particular, at an early age. "I was enthralled by a Messiah performance at University of Portland conducted and accompanied on organ by the Pacific Northwest musical legend Loren Sykes," Hurd recalls. "I must have been only eight years old at the time, but I was on The Edge of my seat all evening, drinking in every sound and dreaming of a day when I could do that, too." That evening, he began a lifelong musical journey which often ventured far from Handel's style period repertoire but always seemed to return to music of the Baroque ... and Messiah. While yet in high school, Hurd was twice awarded First Place Baritone Voice in the Oregon MENC state solo contest, the first year singing the Messiah recitative and aria "Thus Saith the Lord/But Who May Abide."

As an undergraduate at Central Washington University, he performed all of the bass arias in a 1979 Messiah performance with the Central Singers and the university's symphony orchestra. "During my undergrad days, I studied a wide variety of literature and styles, of course. But Messiah seemed to be always near." Hurd holds the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Central Washington University, Ellensburg, where he spent four years as organist and assistant music director at First Presbyterian Church. He was full-time director of music ministries (organist/choirmaster) for First Presbyterian Church in Mesa, Arizona while completing his graduate studies in conducting at Arizona State University. For ten years, he served as associate director of music and organist for All Saints' Episcopal Church in Phoenix. He has conducted choral ensembles twice at the St. Moritz Festival (Switzerland), and numerous tours and festivals throughout England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Russia. Hurd's principal conducting teachers include B. Fred Hammack, G. Gordon Leavitt, Andrew Parrott, and Douglas McEwen.

Edward Hurd serves as director of traditional worship (organist/choirmaster) for Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church (LCMS) in La Vista. He is also director of performance rentals for Omaha Performing Arts, joining the organization in 2003.

The annual performance of Messiah and the ongoing activities of Voices of Omaha, are made possible with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council. & For more information, visit http://voicesofomaha.blogspot.com

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