Dec 25, 2019–During the holiday season there are so many opportunities to hear orchestras, madrigals, and choirs perform holiday favorites that it’s hard to come up with a new way to celebrate musically.
But Whit Matteson has spearheaded an idea that lets people become the performance.
For the 5th year, Matteson is organizing and conducting the annual Messiah Sing-Along hosted at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Boerne on the Sunday after Christmas.
Matteson brought the tradition from Atlanta to the Hill Country when he moved here to become Choir Director of the church.
“In Atlanta, we had several of these sing-alongs around town,” Matteson explained. “I just wanted a place to go sing the Messiah at Christmas. Nobody was doing it, so I said, I’ll do it!”
He used a model he had experienced at the Eastman School of Music. The concept is pretty straightforward. At 3 p.m. on Dec 29, anyone wanting to sing is invited to meet at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Boerne. Signs will designate seating areas for bass, alto, tenor, and soprano. Scores will be provided, there is no rehearsal, and Matteson will conduct.
He is using Part I of Handel’s Messiah, plus the Hallelujah Chorus, and it should last about one hour.
The singers will enjoy impressive accompaniment. His wife, Dr. Susan Matteson, who is organist at First United Methodist Church in Kerrville, will play organ. Dr. Clair Rozier, who is flying in from Philadelphia, will play harpsichord. The ensemble will include strings and oboe.
Matteson estimates the event has averaged 80 to 100 participants. Several have made it a family tradition.
While he likes to arrange singers by section, people are welcome to sit anywhere they choose. Sometimes families prefer to sit together, or a whole church choir will stay in a group and sing the parts. It’s “perfectly all right” and you can bring the kids. There is no requirement to belong to any church or choir, nor to be a resident of Boerne. They have had families come from as far away as Tyler.
“This is just a fun thing to do if you like to sing.”
Or to listen. It’s also okay to just come and listen. There is something uplifting about sitting amidst the singers while they perform Handel’s Messiah. And that’s the point.
“I just love the music,” Matteson said. “I love to sing it, and I missed being able to do it each year. This event lets us continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Even after the stores take down their decorations, it is still the Christmas season.”
For Matteson, it also evokes the accessibility to classical music he found during visits to Europe. He and his wife noted that nearly every church they passed seemed to have an organ or choir event underway.
“There was a 24-hour Bach marathon in Austria,” he said. “We went in at 1 a.m. and there were 40 to 50 people listening. I thought, in the U.S., how many would show up at 1 a.m. to hear Bach!”
On the Sunday after Christmas, he’ll find out how many will show up at 3 p.m. to sing Handel.
The Messiah Sing-Along takes place on Sunday, December 29, 2019, at 3 p.m. in the historic sanctuary of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church, 410 N. Main St., Boerne, Texas. The event is free and all are welcome to sing or listen. Information at www.sthelenas.net/Messiah