Giving Voice to the Season

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Handel’s “Messiah” will once again herald the Christmas season when the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale perform the most famous oratorio ever written Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Guest conductor David Lockington will add his flourish to the classic work, as will four world-class vocalists—soprano Carrie Hennessey, mezzo-soprano Kirsten Solleck, tenor Alan Bennett and bass Michael Dean.

“‘Messiah’ tells the Christmas story in a very vivid and succinct way that has captured people’s imaginations ever since it was first performed in 1742,” says Lockington. “The music is infectious in its energy. I hope people will enjoy the contrasting emotions and energy of our performance. For those who embrace the Christmas story, I hope it enriches their sense of devotion during the holiday season.”

More than 50 separate numbers, typically choral songs alternating with solos for individual soprano, alto, tenor or bass voice comprise Handel’s “Messiah.”  Together they present a version of the Christian story of the messiah, or anointed one, from the annunciation and birth through the crucifixion and resurrection.

Composed in a major burst of inspiration fairly late in Handel’s career, “Messiah” is that rarest of compositions: a long, serious work with a broad appeal that transcends style and age. “Messiah” has inspired jazz, soul and Dixieland versions.

“Of course, familiarity makes ‘Messiah’ relevant every year, but every time a piece is performed it is ‘new,’” says Lockington. “It doesn’t matter what style or tempos are adopted—it is the conviction of the moment that makes it a living document of human experience.”

Lockington last performed with Pacific Symphony in 2006 with violinist Pinchas Zukerman, and before that in 2000, with pianist Garrick Ohlsson and the women of Pacific Chorale. He has served as music director of Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra since January 1999 and Modesto Symphony since May 2007.

Tenor Bennett has emerged in recent years as one of the finest oratorio singers in the U.S., noted for his performances of Bach, Handel and Mozart and receiving critical acclaim for his interpretations of the Evangelist in the “Passions” by Bach. Bennett has performed across North America with numerous orchestras as well as with period instrument ensembles.

Dean has made frequent appearances at New York City Opera, where he has performed the title role in “The Marriage of Figaro,” Leporello in “Don Giovanni,” George in “Of Mice and Men” and Papageno in “The Magic Flute.” Recent appearances have also included Jason McFarlane in the “Live from Lincoln Center” broadcast of “Lizzie Borden”; “Figaro” in Antwerp, Belgium; and Colline in “La Bohème” in Strasbourg and Berlin.

Described as being “as gripping an actress as she is a singer,” soprano Hennessy’s “vivid stage presence” debuted with Cinnabar Theater as Emmeline in the West Coast premiere of Tobias Picker’s opera of the same name. With West Bay Opera as Mimi in “La Bohème,” she was said to be “possessed of a full powerful lyric soprano, which delivers Puccini’s arias and duets richly.”

Based in New York, mezzo-soprano Sollek made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2004 with André Thomas and the New York City Chamber Orchestra in Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass.” Career highlights include three Haydn “Masses” performed and recorded with Jane Glover and Trinity Wall Street for Naxos, Bach performances with Andrew Parrott and the New York Collegium, an all-Bach program with Helmuth Rilling and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Duruflé’s “Requiem” at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue and Handel’s “Messiah” with Bach Collegium Japan.

Tickets for “Messiah” are $26-$125. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799, or visit


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