The Fort Belvoir combined choir kicked off the installation’s spiritual celebration of Christmas by performing Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah Dec. 2.
The vocalists shared the stage with a professional orchestra and entertained the crowd with scripture readings, solos and musicianship in Fort Belvoir Chapel.
The 28th annual concert allowed opportunities for fellowship and began the advent celebration.
“Handel’s Messiah is one of the most beautiful classical pieces of music that keeps Christ in Christmas and makes sure we keep paying attention to the heritage that the United States has for protecting the faiths of its people,” said Chaplain (Col.) Philip Hill, garrison command chaplain and catholic priest. “It produces a spirit of happiness and cooperation.”
George Frideric Handel, born in Germany, composed the Messiah in the 1700s and it was first performed in Dublin, Ireland in 1742. The score has since been used to celebrate Easter and Christmas.
Mary McAdory, Messiah conductor and Belvoir Protestant choir director has conducted Belvoir’s concerts since their first performance on post in 1984. A former post chaplain asked her to play the piece that year and participation in the choir has been steady at 80 to 100 members annually, according to McAdory.
Belvoir’s protestant choir is the core of the Messiah group but choir members from other chapel services — grade-school principles, doctors and other community members — participate each year.
During the concert, a speaker read the Bible scriptures that inspired Handel’s Messiah. Solos, singing and orchestra music followed the readings.
“The blend of the voices within the choir was very rich,” said Lenore Banks, an Air Force spouse. “The orchestra was also great and it all puts you in the right spirit.”
For the performers, the concert provided an opportunity to share their talent and enjoy the season.
“It’s not Christmas without singing the Messiah,” said Jerald Jacobs, a tenor performing for the first time. “It focused on our Lord and his life and what he’s done for us.”
Bridget Higgins, a soprano who has performed in the concert since 1992, started participating in high school. She’s continues to perform, in part, because the event brings back fond memories.
“It takes out the commercialism of Christmas and reminds you what the season’s all about,” Higgins said. “It’s a great tradition.”
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James King, deputy garrison chaplain and senior protestant pastor, said the concert starts the garrison’s observance of Advent, a four-week period leading up to the birth of Christ.
The garrison will continue its celebration by hosting a Tree Lighting ceremony and Navy band concert Friday at 5 p.m., and 7 p.m., respectively. The Tree Lighting will be hosted outdoors on the corner of Belvoir Road and 12th Street while the concert will take place in Wallace Theater.
“The celebration is deeply rooted both in scripture and in the history of church music,” King said of the concert. “It enables people to come and celebrate and really set the tone for a wonderful Advent celebration.”