The Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra is gearing up for its holiday performances of Handel’s “Messiah” on Sunday at The State Theatre.
The Orpheus Singers, PCO and four vocal soloists have all been preparing independently for some time, but joined forces at rehearsals the week before the concerts, said PCO Executive Director Susan Kroeker, who called that the most enjoyable part for everyone.
“It is tremendously exciting to observe how a great work of art comes together in the final days before a performance, and our collaborations have been so successful that this will be our fifth year of ‘Messiah’ performances together,” she said.
According to Kroeker, the annual tradition began thanks in part to the vision and financial backing of the late Samuel Lykens, who supported the performances “so that he would no longer have to drive to a major city to see the ‘Messiah,’ which was very meaningful to him.”
While this may be the group’s fifth performance of the famous holiday piece, it is the first time it will be performed at The State Theatre, the orchestra’s new home as of the 2017-18 season. Kroeker said the new location has greatly impacted audiences so far.
“This year, we are performing the ‘Messiah’ twice in the same venue in State College, whereas in the past we have performed it once in State College, and once in another community such as Bellefonte or Hollidaysburg,” she said. “We have already seen increased audience numbers at our first concert at The State Theatre, and are hoping for a sell-out at the ‘Messiah’ performances, which I feel is due to the great downtown location and free parking downtown on Sundays.”
For the “Messiah” concert, the orchestra is renting acoustical sound shells from the Altoona Symphony, to enhance the theater’s acoustics. Additionally, in an effort to bring in more members of the surrounding areas to see the State College performance, packages are available to residents of DuBois, Clearfield and Philipsburg, and include tickets to the show, dinner and bus transportation from Fullington Bus Company.
“The Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra greatly values outreach to other communities, and this has been a great way to bring in audiences from surrounding towns,” Kroeker said. “Many of our audience members attend annually with their entire families, as it has become a very meaningful holiday tradition for them.”
For those who may have never attended the holiday event, Kroeker says audiences can expect to enjoy selections from the overall longer work over the two-hour concert, with movements including some of the most well-known choruses, performed by an orchestra of 20 and choir of 50.
“For many, it is a great way to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and its message of hope. For others, it is thrilling to hear Handel’s masterpiece performed locally by a professional orchestra and choir, with outstanding soloists. In any case, the ‘Messiah’ has become one of the most enjoyable ways to celebrate the season, even to those who normally do not attend classical music concerts,” she said.
IF YOU GO
- What: The Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra presents Handel’s “Messiah”
- When: 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: www.thestatetheatre .org