'Messiah' performance a Steamboat community effort

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Yampa Valley Singers rehearsal

The Yampa Valley Singers rehearse Monday night to get ready for its Tuesday night performance of Handel's "Messiah." The choir will perform its annual holiday concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the United Methodist Church of Steamboat Springs.

— This year’s Yampa Valley Singers performance of Handel’s “Messiah” was truly a singular Steamboat Springs effort. Past conductors often have imported soloists — sometimes referred to as “ringers” — for special vocal effects, and we have seen many a December concert enriched by instrumentalists and even the occasional full orchestra. 

But 2011 brought us a pre-Christmas music festival of great quality without similar importations and additions: Every participant (with the exception of the organist) was a full-time resident of Routt County. Tuesday evening’s superb demonstration of local talent should make our citizens proud. The very difficult bass solo was performed admirably by our own Elliot Ross-Bryant. All the other soloists — too numerous to mention but all gifted in their ability to deliver the challenging Handelian rills and flourishes — were locals, too.

Anna Jones’ direction gave us a significantly new style of production. The youthful, unassuming flair of this chorus director (she has taught music in our local public school system for several years) captivated the packed audience with an enthusiastic performance of this masterpiece of mid-18th century oratorio. Her careful selection of singers performing the more demanding choruses meant that we could listen happily to an outstanding rendition of two pieces in particular that have given trouble to singers in past performances. For clarity of sound, we rarely have heard in former presentations such exactitude in the delivery of fine pitch, timing, tone, volume and diction. It was a stunning accomplishment.

The evening performance at United Methodist Church in downtown Steamboat Springs also began in a different manner. The highly talented madrigal group of 20 voices, now known as the Steamboat Chamber Singers, sang six different modern selections, two each under the separate control of three different directors — Keri Rusthoi, John Fairlee and new Steamboat resident Teri Rose, who also contributed her talents as harp accompanist in one selection. The coordination of all these efforts must have been another challenge for the multiple directors and 60 singers. And we should not forget to acknowledge the ever-present and faithful support of the United Methodist Church, which has sponsored this event for more than 40 years.

Bravo to all.

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