Kristin Fry

It is starting. Again. And you can participate.

Something magical happens whenever you combine a talented orchestra and choir, but singing and playing Handel’s Messiah is sublime. The opening strains of the Overture lead into a lyrical tenor intoning “Comfort ye, my people,” and we all settle back into our seats for something very special, indeed. The choir announces joyfully “the glory of the Lord,” mourns through Christ’s sufferings, and rejoices “Hallelujah” so memorably that it is said to have brought the king to his feet at its first performance. It is remarkable to hear—and even more spine-tingling to perform yourself.

On Sunday, October 6, rehearsals begin for the 29th Mat-Su Messiah community performance. Choir rehearsals are held every Sunday evening at 5:30—just once a week—with an amazing group of local folks who come together to sing selections of Handel’s Messiah. Rehearsals culminate in a December 8th performance at the Glenn Massay Theater, under the baton of a talented conductor. It’s an amazing experience to sing, play, or hear—and you can be a part of it! (Find rehearsal details in the Frontiersman Events section, on Mat-Su Messiah’s Facebook page, or contact messiahmatsu@gmail.com.)

The history of the Mat-Su Messiah performance is a long and varied one. In the early 1990’s Chloris Mullins organized the first Messiah sing-in at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wasilla. From these humble beginnings, the Messiah concert continued over the years with a variety of conductors, accompanied only by piano and, occasionally, organ. It graduated from sing-a-long to prepared performance, but simplicity remained its hallmark.

Then, in the early 2000’s John and Terri Pontius, local musicians and visionaries, began directing and overseeing the Messiah program production. They invited singers from Anchorage, Eagle River, and local community choirs to participate. They also assembled a small orchestra with from the Valley to accompany the performance. Though John deeply loved to conduct the Messiah himself, he and Terri regularly invited well-respected conductors. Katherine Eaddy and Janet Stotts were among those who willingly and graciously took the stand.

As the tradition of the Mat-Su Messiah grew, so did the participation and support of the community. Over the years the list of conductors, soloists, and instrumentalists who have participated reads like a Who’s Who of local musicians. They come from across the educational, semi-professional, and professional spectrum—all sharing their generous talents, gratis.

Three years ago, the performance outgrew the Latter-day Saint chapel venue and began filling the Glenn Massay Theater. Although John and Terri left Alaska and John has since passed away, Terri has returned several times to conduct the concert. We are thrilled to welcome her back as a beloved conductor this year.

But what makes the Mat-Su Messiah performances so special are the names you won’t recognize. These are your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends. They comprise a community that willingly comes together, in some cases year after year, to sing or play challenging music for the simple joy of it. Last year more than 100 of these hard-working people joined together and created something magnificent.

Over the years, the Mat-Su Messiah performance has become an anticipated part of the Valley’s Christmas celebrations—a gift lovingly prepared and freely offered to all. This year, if you have not already, consider singing, playing, or attending. Those of us who participate feel enriched and blessed as we sing together about our Savior, Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Kristin Fry lives with her husband and children on a family farm in Palmer, where they care for 800 chickens, several beehives and a cow. Kristin directed the 2018 Messiah performance and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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