Monday, December 10, 2007

Messiah Sing Fills Church with Cheer

Barry Hemphill and a portion of the Metropolitan Chorus. (Click to enlarge image.)

I forgot. I just plain forgot. Two Saturdays ago (Dec.1), my children and I caught the first 20 minutes or so of the Messiah sing-along at our church, First Presbyterian at the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road and N. Vermont Street, where Buckingham meets the Bluemont neighborhood. I took photos with my cell phone, so the quality is poor, and then I plain forgot to post a story.

This was the 20th Anniversary of the sing held by the Metropolitan Chorus, with Barry Hemphill as the artistic director. He also is the music director at First Presbyterian. He’s charming up front when encouraging us non-singers to sing.

“Pretend you’re a soprano,” he said at the start. Look around at the people in the pews near you, he said, and realize it’s OK to sing loudly, if poorly, because, “you’ll never see them again.”

Even though we were in a Presbyterian church, he said it was OK to smile, we could return to our dour looks on Sunday to which Charlotte Lohrenz, the church’s interim pastor, called, “It’s OK to smile tomorrow too!”

Mr. Hemphill leads the audience in the chorus. (Click to enlarge the image.)

I sat in the balcony with my kids and our rented copy of the Messiah score ($2). My daughter, a second-grader, and I tried our best to keep up with others. Many who are part of the troupe were in the pews themselves. It was fun.

My daughter and I got lost, and sounded terrible, but the church was festooned. Holiday cheer with its rising voices filled the room with more goodwill toward men than one man should receive.

My kids gave out before I did, so we left long before the “Hallelujah” chorus.

The Metropolitan Chorus has been singing for 41 years, in such illustrious places as The Kennedy Center, The National Building Museum, and Constitutional Hall. The troupe has toured internationally, their pamphlet from the evening said.

Mr. Hemphill, as well as being a highly respected music director for the church, retired as the Sgt. Major of the United States Army Band, and has conducted the Messiah sing at the Kennedy Center, since 1994, the materials say.

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