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Westminster Symphonic Choir Performs Messiah in Philadelphia and New York

12/06/2018

Handel’s Messiah is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable classical works performed during the holiday season.  For many music lovers, attending a performance of Messiah is a treasured part of their Christmas celebrations - and many of those performances involve Westminster Choir College. 

Yes, this time of the year Westminster and Messiah seem to be everywhere.  Between December 5 and 15, the Westminster Symphonic Choir will perform Handel’s master work eight times: three with The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and five with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jonathan Cohen.

And when you add in the many performances around the world that are conducted by a Westminster graduate or include a Choir College grad as a soloist or chorus member, the numbers explode.  Yes, Westminster and Messiah are ubiquitous at the holidays!

Westminster’s first Messiah performance with a major orchestra occurred 30 years after the college was founded when Leonard Bernstein invited the Westminster Symphonic Choir to perform with the New York Philharmonic.  Since then, the Choir has performed 18 runs of Messiah – 13 of them with the New York Philharmonic.  This season's performances with The Philadelphia Orchestra are the first with that ensemble since a 1960 concert conducted by William Smith.

This year’s run with both the New York Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra in a matter of days is a first.  “It offers our students a rare opportunity to experience two different approaches to this masterwork with major conductors and orchestras,” says Director of Choral Activities Joe Miller, who calculates that he’s been involved with at least 40 Messiah performances since he joined Westminster’s faculty in 2006.

Westminster Symphonic Choir's Messiah Performances

Year

Orchestra

Conductor

1956

New York Philharmonic

Leonard Bernstein

1960

Philadelphia Orchestra

William Smith

1966

New York Philharmonic

Sir Malcolm Sargent

1969

National Symphony

Howard Mitchell

1969

Trenton Symphony

William Smith

1970

National Symphony

Paul Callaway

1981

New Jersey Symphony

Thomas Michalak

2002

New York Philharmonic

Sir Neville Marriner

2003

New York Philharmonic

Nicholas McGegan

2004

New York Philharmonic

Alan Gilbert

2005

New York Philharmonic

Richard Hickox

2006

New York Philharmonic

Harry Bicket

2008

New York Philharmonic

Ton Koopman

2011

New York Philharmonic

Peter Schreier

2013

New York Philharmonic

Andrew Manze

2014

New York Philharmonic

Gary Thor Wedow

2015

New York Philharmonic

Jane Glover

2017

New York Philharmonic

Andrew Manze

2018

The Philadelphia Orchestra 

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

2018

New York Philharmonic

Jonathan Cohen