Handel’s Messiah Sunday, Dec. 15

Washington University presents annual sing-along in Graham Chapel

Detail of stained glass in Washington University’s historic Graham Chapel. (David Kilper/WUSTL Photos)

It is perhaps the most beloved work of holiday music. The debut was almost prevented by Jonathan Swift.

Frontpiece from Memoirs of the Life of the Late George Frideric Handel (1760) by the composer’s biographer, John Mainwaring.

In 1741, George Frideric Handel arrived in Dublin for a series of winter concerts. Four in December and January, more in February and March, a gala event in April. On the latter program was Messiah, a new oratorio intended as an Easter celebration.

Enlisting choirs from Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Handel set the premiere for the “New Musick Hall in Fishamble Street.” But Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and dean of St. Patrick’s, objected to the secular venue. He threatened to withhold his singers.

In the end, Swift relented, for reasons that remain unclear. But perhaps it was this: Handel, in announcing the concert, dedicated the proceeds to charity, “for the relief of the Prisoners in the several Gaols, and for the Support of Mercer’s Hospital in Stephen Street, and of the Charitable Infirmary on the Inn’s Quay.”


Today, Handel’s Messiah remains a holiday favorite, though one generally performed at Christmas, rather than Easter. At 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, Washington University in St. Louis’ Department of Music in Arts & Sciences will present its annual sing-along in Graham Chapel.

The performance, which lasts about an hour, will include the Christmas portion of Messiah as well as the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Those who wish to may sit in special sections arranged according to voice type (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), though those who choose not to sing also are welcome to attend.

Copies of the music will be available for those who do not bring their own scores.

Chip Broze, who earned a bachelor’s of music in vocal performance from WUSTL in 2007, directs the program. Broze recently completed his master’s in choral conducting at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Soloists will include soprano Tamara Miller-Campbell and baritone Nathan Ruggles, both teachers of applied music. Also featured will be mezzo-soprano Stephanie Ruggles and tenor Anthony Heinemann, both master’s recipients in vocal performances. The organist will be Mary Hitchcock-Reinhart.

Graham Chapel is located immediately north of the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-5566 or email daniels@wustl.edu.