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Peterborough volunteers to revive Handel's Messiah

PETERBOROUGH — A group of local singers and musicians are bringing back the community performance of Handel's Messiah that used to take place at Franklin Pierce University every Christmas season.

The one hour concert includes selected pieces from Messiah and is planned for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Congregational Church on Concord Street.

The chorus will be comprised of about 70 local singers who had been a part of the Franklin Pierce Messiah.

"It's for people that did sing it at Franklin Pierce mostly, people that know it really well. We just have the one rehearsal Saturday at 2 p.m. It's free, just like Pierce was," said Margaret Carlson, who played violin in the Franklin Pierce Messiah orchestra for 29 years. "The singers are paying $15 each to do it because we have no other way of doing it and that's why Franklin Pierce canceled it. It got to be too expensive."

Franklin Pierce University professor David Brandes started the community event more than 30 years ago, Carlson said, and organized and conductor the concert every year.

Three years ago, Franklin Pierce announced it would no longer hold the free Christmastime Messiah concert due to the cost.

At Franklin Pierce it was held in a large gymnasium with a full orchestra and about 350 singers that came from all over New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

The last 15 years of the Franklin Pierce Messiah concerts the university had paid the orchestra members.

There was also the cost of hiring soloists, Carlson said. "(Brandes) got soloists from Boston. It was really a big deal when he did it. We have a small deal."

For this performance, local singers alto Pamela Stevens, tenor Rick Simpson, soprano Samantha McCloghry and basses Stephen Smillie and Tom Cochran will be the soloists. Along with the singers a string quartet from Francestown and organist Mary Ann Fleming will be conducted by Jeff Fuller, who is the musical director at All Saints Church in Peterborough.

Carlson said she is worried the 270 seat church may be too small for the community turnout, but said hopefully with the help of donations the concert can return again next year at a larger venue.

"I missed playing it a great deal and hopefully someday there will be a big group," Carlson said.


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