Photo by Greg Locke

Hallelujah! Handels Messiah at the Basilica for its 28th Year
By Lauren Power 

There are three holiday institutions in St. John’s: the Downtown Santa Claus Parade, lighting the Prince Phillip Drive lights, and Handel’s Messiah at the Basilica.

Now in its twenty-eighth year, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra’s holiday centrepiece is tuning up for its performances this Friday and Saturday night.

“People look forward to this all year and for many, it signals the start of the holiday season,” says NSO CEO Neil Edwards. “Musically, there are so many great moments! Elite Productions lights the Basilica beautifully, so it’s also a bit of a visual feast.  Overall, I guess I’d have to say my favourite thing is the energy in the room.”

“All of our soloists – Shannon Mercer, Julie Nesrallah, Michael Colvin, and Philippe Sly – enjoy major international careers and we’re very fortunate to have them with us,” says Edwards. “Add the orchestra and chorus, and you’ve pretty much got yourself a world-class event.”

For newbies and non-townies, here are two pro tips:

1) When it gets to the Hallelujah part, stand up. “According to legend, in 1743, King George II was so moved by the Hallelujah Chorus that he opted to stand, thus obligating everyone else to follow suit…when the King stands, everyone stands,” says Edwards. “From that, it appears, a tradition was born. It also offers a good opportunity to stretch one’s legs!”

2) Bring a pillow (to sit on). The NSO’s productions of Messiah usually run about two hours, and the pews aren’t exactly plush. Avoid aching memories of Midnight Mass, and bring something on which to sit.

The NSO performs Handels Messiah, presented by Cox & Palmer, on December 12 and 13 at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist (200 Military Road). Info available at nsomusic.ca.