Christmas Countdown

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I was ten years old when I first saw Messiah performed live. It was sung by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago at Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue, and since then I have enjoyed dozens of additional performances of that beautiful oratorio by Apollo. Even after moving away from Illinois, I have flown back many, many times specifically to hear them sing it; it was a Christmas tradition to take my dad downtown each year to enjoy the concert.

If you’re unfamiliar with Apollo, here’s a little background: the chorus was formed following the Great Chicago Fire to boost the morale of the citizenry. It’s the oldest musical organization in Chicago and one of the oldest volunteer choral societies in the United States. 120+ voices strong, all singers audition for their seats. They have performed Messiah every year since 1879. (Spectacularly.) While each season includes performances of other works, Messiah is a staple, and hearing Apollo sing it is a beloved tradition for me and lots of other people.

Most everyone is familiar with the stirring Hallelujah Chorus. How can you not love it? It moves the soul.

Even more wonderful, for me anyway, are the final two selections in Part the Third. “Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain,” followed by the “Amen.” They nearly always bring me to tears…

handel's messiah

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