‘Messiah’ sing along designed to bring the community together
Dr. Jonathan Griffith will conduct
The Park City Interfaith Council, comprised of singers and representatives from various churches and synagogues in the greater Park City area, created the annual “Messiah” sing along three years ago.
The idea was to celebrate spring and bring all the different religious sects and faiths together.
The organizations who participate in the choir include the Christian Center of Park City, Park City Singers, Park City Treble Makers, Utah Conservatory, Creekside Church, Mountain Life Church, Park City Community Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Temple Har Shalom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Park City High School faculty.
Dr. Jonathan Griffith, co-founder and artistic director of Distinguished Concerts International New York, said the upcoming third annual “Messiah” sing along, which will be at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 9, at the Eccles Center, is a bright light in a time of division.
“It’s more important now than it ever has been,” Griffith said during an interview with The Park Record. “I think it’s exciting to have all of these different churches to come together to share this experience with the community.”
Griffith also said the live performance is the perfect antithesis for digital communication.
“We have become such a culture that is dependent on cellular phones and communication through text, and there is a danger of less and less face-to-face, person-to-person communication,” he said. “A live performance is an exchange between the performers and the audience. This two-way communication occurs in the same location, and can never be repeated again. Yes, we can perform ‘the Messiah’ again, but the singers will be different. The orchestra will be different and the audience will be different.”
This is the second year Griffith will conduct the Park City performance and he is honored to have the opportunity to return to the Wasatch Back and work with old friends.
“The people here are truly gracious and appreciative and about 30 of them came to New York last November and sang ‘Messiah’ in Carnegie Hall with our own orchestra,” he said. “The version we performed was orchestrated by Sir Thomas Beecham and arranged by Sir. Eugene Goossens. It is rarely performed, simply because it takes a chorus of 225 and an orchestra between 70 to 80 members.”
While the Park City concert won’t reach that vastness of the Carnegie Hall performance, Griffith said he has noticed a jump in the quality of the singers.
“I was told by [Utah Conservatory co-founder] Debra Cook that even though the Park City chorus isn’t as large as it was last year, it’s at a higher quality,” Griffith said. “After rehearsal last Sunday, when I spent three hours with the singers, I would have to agree.”
Griffith should know. He’s worked with professional singers and musicians through Distinguished Concerts International New York, a nonprofit that uses experience and education to change lives through the power of performance.
“The challenge for amateur singers is that there is an enthusiasm, but a lack in the skills that professional singers would have garnered over many years of lessons, practice and performances,” he said. “A lot of what I do is bring in the basics to rehearsals. I bring in rhythm, vocal technique that includes diction, so the audience can understand what the singers are singing.
“Amateur singers want to become better musicians. So, I put out the challenge to them. I won’t challenge them to do more than they are capable of doing, but I will not allow them to do less.”
Griffith believes the singers enjoy that challenge.
“There is the love of the music and they are in the process of gaining the skills to actually harness that love to turn it in to an exciting concert,” he said.
Last year the choir was accompanied by an organ. This year, it will be singing with a 15-piece chamber orchestra that includes a harpsichord and organ.
“That adds another exciting element to the performance, because this is, in some degree, what Handel wrote,” Griffith said. “People in the audience who want to sing along are invited and encouraged to do so with energy. There will be scores for rental or purchase at the door. So, there is no excuse to not show up.”
Project chairman Randy Favero said he hopes the public will attend even if they don’t sing.
“I think there is a possibility that the notion of a sing along may scare some people off,” he said. “[The event] needs to be looked at as a high quality concert, and oh by the way, those in the audience who may want to sing along on some familiar choruses can do that too. The intent of the event is to bring together the community.”
“I really encourage the community to come to support this musical gift that is rarely offered in a community this size in a social environment,” Griffith said.
The third annual Park City Interfaith Council “Messiah” sing along will be at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 9, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. The concert, led by Maestro Jonathan Griffith, co-founder, artistic director and principal conductor of Distinguished Concerts International New York, is free and open to the public.
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