Southwest Symphony orchestra set to perform Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ a Christmas tradition for over 30 years

Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Continuing a beloved holiday tradition in Southern Utah, the Southwest Symphony orchestra returns to the Cox Performing Arts Center for two performances of George Frideric Handel’s soul-stirring oratorio “Messiah” on Dec. 10-11. 

The Southwest Symphony performs in Town Square Park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 30, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony, St. George News

“Messiah” was composed in 1741 with text based on Biblical passages and became one of the most frequently performed choral works in the Western world. The Southwest Symphony has presented the oratorio every December for more than 30 years. 

“For many people, the holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without it,” music director and conductor Lucas Darger said. 

The concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. The symphony will be accompanied by Lieto Voices!, a community choir based in Washington County. 

Darger said the shows are expected to sell out and encourages patrons to reserve their seats as early as possible. Tickets cost $18, $24 or $30 depending on section and are available to purchase online or by calling the Dixie State University box office at 435-652-7800

Patrons that purchase tickets to two or more Southwest Symphony performances this season will receive a 15% discount, while those attending four or more concerts can save 25%. 

David Park plays with the Southwest Symphony at the Cox Performing Arts Center, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony, St. George News

“That’s what we aspire to as artists: to have people come away and not just feel an abstract judgement about a performance but to truly feel moved and experience a connection between the music and their lives,” Darger said. “There’s always something special about being able to see a full choir and orchestra in person.” 

The concert will showcase approximately 150 musicians, and “Messiah” features everything from the exhilarating sound of the choir and orchestra in harmony to small chamber-like works with a handful of strings and vocal soloists. Audiences are sure to recognize the “Hallelujah Chorus” along with powerful hymns like the soprano solo “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” and the bass solo “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” 

“Messiah” will also feature four acclaimed special guests as soloists. Aubrey Adams-McMillan enjoys an active career singing opera, musical theater, chamber music, art song and symphonic works. She is a professor of voice at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Christopher Holmes has traveled the world sharing his vocal talents and has over 35 operatic roles to his credit. He is an adjunct instructor of voice at Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University.

Isaac Hurtado has drawn critical acclaim for performances of over 30 leading tenor roles across the country. He is an assistant professor of voice and director of opera at Utah Valley University and is the executive director of the UVAA Summer Opera Festival. Michelle Sundwall has performed in a variety of genres and venues nationwide, and her skills range from classical to Broadway and jazz to gospel. She received her master’s degree in vocal performance from Brigham Young University.

Now in its 41st performance season, the Southwest Symphony is an auditioned group of approximately 80 professional and skilled amateur musicians from the community. The symphony is supported by a combination of ticket sales, grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations. Musicians receive a small stipend for their participation, but it’s essentially a volunteer organization.

The symphony has won the Best of State award for community orchestra three years in a row, a recognition that Darger said speaks to the dedication and talent of their musicians as well as the staff that work tirelessly to produce quality concerts. 

“This is an excellent group of musicians that are very passionate about the symphony and the music we play, and I think that translates into deeply impactful performances,” he added. “We are so grateful to be here and be performing, and we are looking forward to a fantastic season.” 

The Southwest Symphony in concert at the Cox Performing Arts Center, St. George, Utah, Jan. 28, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony, St. George News

The 2021-2022 season continues with a performance of Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale “Peter and the Wolf” on Feb. 4. The Southwest Symphony will be joined onstage by a narrator, the Zion Youth Symphony and the gold medalist of their concerto competition. 

On March 4, the symphony will welcome DeMarre McGill, principal flutist of the Seattle Symphony, to perform Mozart’s “Flute Concerto in G Major.” The evening will also include Brahms’s “Symphony No. 1.” 

Then, celebrate Easter with a performance of “Lamb of God,” a musical portrayal of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, on April 1. The symphony will be joined by the Lieto Voices! choir and talented soloists. 

And to close the season, the symphony has invited violinist Caroline Campbell to join them on April 29 for a lively mix of Hollywood favorites and showtunes. Visit the Southwest Symphony website to purchase tickets and learn how your support helps to advance the performing arts in Southern Utah.

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

•  S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •

Event details

  • What: Southwest Symphony presents Handel’s “Messiah”.  
  • When: Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11, starting at 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Cox Performing Arts Center, 335 S. 700 East, St. George. 
  • Tickets: Area 1 $18; area 2 $24; premium $30. 
  • Resources: Website

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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