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Sunday service takes a classical Christmas twist

The Sunday before Christmas will be a regular worship service at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. Well, except for a rousing rendition of Handel’s Messiah performed by a choir of more than 50 voices.

This is no simple concert, however, as the performance will take place as part of the Sunday service.
It’s an opportunity to bring music of the season into the regular service, something the church has been doing in recent years, says its pastor.

“These things need to be [performed] by the church. We’re trying to do them within the context of Sunday morning worship,” he explained.

Originally performed at Lent, Messiah has become a staple in the Advent run-up to Christmas. Likely the most beloved oratorio in the English-speaking world, it has been a favourite since its premiere in 1742.

As is often the case with Christmas performances of Messiah, the St. Jacobs Mennonite presentation will cover the first of the three parts, ending with the “Hallelujah Chorus.” One or two of the solo pieces from the first part will be delivered as scripture readings, said Diller Harder.

“It’s a much-loved work. People know it and love it … and have expectations about it,” he said, noting the church has been in rehearsals since mid-November.

Some 50 to 55 people in the choir, largely drawn from the congregation but with a few friends and friends of friends, will be joined by a 14-piece orchestra. The pastor will be conducting what he calls a “homegrown” effort.

The performance of Messiah will be woven into the service – “in a sense, the music becomes the sermon” – with the Hallelujah Chorus allowing everyone in attendance to join in as it wraps up. Call it the sing-along portion that eases the transition back to regular service.

Though part of regular Sunday worship Dec. 19, everyone is welcome to attend in order to take in the Christmas classic. St. Jacobs Mennonite Church is located at 1308 King St. N.

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