Orchestra of Southern Utah gives 75th performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’

CEDAR CITY — The Orchestra of Southern Utah invites everyone to join them as they usher in the Christmas season with its 75th annual performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” Come celebrate the diamond anniversary of this Cedar City tradition completely free of charge.

Performances will be Dec. 13 and 14. The doors will open both evenings at 6:45 p.m. and the audience is asked to be seated by 7:15 p.m., at which time empty seats will be released to those waiting. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m.

This production is funded by the generous sponsorships of the Leavitt Group and the State Bank of Southern Utah and performed with the volunteer service of the orchestra and choir. As a result, admission is free.

Tickets are required and are available, free of charge, at the Heritage Center Theater box office, 105 N. 100 East in Cedar City, during regular business hours. Attendees are encouraged to collect their tickets in advance as a full house is expected for both performances.

Handel’s “Messiah” was written in 1741 and tells the story of Christ in three chapters corresponding to His birth, death and resurrection. The piece takes its audience on an emotional and spiritual journey, the Orchestra’s news release said, climaxing with the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” and ending with a reverent and uplifting series of “amen.”

The first performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in Cedar City was New Year’s Day in 1925. Beginning in 1940, it became a winter tradition. Originally performed by Southern Utah University (then called the Branch Agricultural College), the Orchestra of Southern Utah has since taken up the responsibility.

The OSU bows at the end of their performance of Handel's "Messiah," Cedar City, Utah, 2014 | Photo by Rollan Fell, St. George News
The OSU bows at the end of their performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” Cedar City, Utah, 2014 | Photo by Rollan Fell, St. George News

Cedar City has a long and vibrant history with the musical arts. Musical residents of Cedar City have consistently come together in community. The earliest Mormon pioneers used fiddle music to keep warm throughout the cold winters and the Cedar City Band would perform in the City Park and later as an official military unit with the U.S. Army.

The orchestral scene in Cedar City grew to proportions unheard of for its small area, the orchestra’s news release said, accounting the growth to ambitious and charitable leaders such as Orien Dalley, who donated almost 100 string instruments to SUU as he retired, and Roy L. Halversen. This growth culminated in the construction of the Heritage Center Theater, which has provided a permanent home for the Orchestra of Southern Utah, as well as a venue for even more arts to flourish.

Jackie Jackson, OSU "Messiah" director, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the OSU, St. George News
Jackie Jackson, director of Orchestra of Southern Utah’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah” | Publicity Photo courtesy of OSU, St. George News

Jackie Riddle-Jackson will be directing and conducting this year’s performances. A panel of judges evaluated the audtions; among them: Harold Shirley, president of the orchestra; Ron Cardon, community member and SUU alumnus; Mark Ganowsky, Cedar High School chorale director; and Carol Ann Modesitt, SUU professor of voice.

The soloists chosen by the judges for this year’s “Messiah” include: Alex Byers, Taliah Byers, Taryn Thomas, Terri Metcalf-Peterson, Glen Reber, Corlissa Jensen, Shannon Birch, Tyler Melling, Brandi Hall, Leslie Perkins and Taylor Rowley.

The soloists come from a variety of backgrounds in Cedar City and from SUU and Dixie State University.

The famous trumpet solo for “The Trumpet Will Sound” will be performed by Adam Lambert in the Sunday performance and Austin Clark in the Monday performance.

Event details

  • What: 75th annual Handel’s “Messiah” performed by the OSU
  • When: Dec. 13-14, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Heritage Center Theater, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City
  • Admission: Free tickets are available at the Heritage Center Theater or from Emily Hepworth, OSU manager – telephone 435-233-8213 | Note: Children over 6 with adult supervision are welcome but not babies as the performance is recorded

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