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Vogel prepares for 20th year conducting "Messiah"

Staff writer

Tabor College is about tradition, and in the tradition of the holidays, the college’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah” will be conducted for the 20th time by director Brad Vogel at 7 p.m. Sunday at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church.

Vogel still remembered his first time conducting the performance like it was yesterday.

“Probably my most outstanding memory is the nerves I felt before I conducted it the very first time in 1997,” Vogel said. “I literally had to force myself to walk on to the stage.”

The audience, Vogel said, can expect a vibrant and massive choral sound, and a very professional production. 

“We are fortunate to have such accomplished orchestral players join us each year, and it really adds to the performance,” Vogel said. “Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is so well written — beauty, majesty, joy, picturesque expression — I believe it moves people when they hear it performed live because of the human element of performance.”

While the choir does not perform every piece in Messiah, Vogel said it has been consistent each year, adding the finale “Worthy is the Lamb” with the extended “Amen” chorus a couple of years after Vogel began conducting the performance, and “All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray” a few years ago.

“The arias have been consistent as well,” Vogel said, “except we will add certain ones, depending upon who is singing solos each year.”

The biggest change since Vogel began directing has been inviting alumni to join the performance.

Vogel began to invite alumni five years into his conducting, and the number that sing in the performance grows each year.

“I think we had about a dozen the first year, and then it quickly began to grow,” Vogel said. “When I started inviting alums, I hoped for 20. That was reached quickly, and then I started to hope for 40.”

This year, the number is estimated to exceed 50, which causes sharing of chairs between chorus members on the church stage. 

“We need a bigger stage,” Vogel said, “and thankfully are getting one.”

For Tabor graduate Elissa Richert, performing in the Messiah as an alumnus is a family thing.

“My great-grandpa started the (Messiah) tradition,” Richert said. “It’s my little way of carrying on his legacy.”

A new feature for this year’s performance includes alumni soloists, which Vogel decided to do in celebration of his 20th year.

“There are so many students who have performed the arias of Messiah admirably,” Vogel said, “and it’s fun to bring a few of them back and have them do it again.”

Vogel is excited for his 20th performance, which is free for the public to attend.

“It’s simply a very enjoyable work to conduct,” Vogel said, “and to do it with a fine orchestra and with singers who really enjoy singing it—and sing it well—makes is a pleasure every year.”

Last modified Dec. 1, 2016

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