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New Highland Lakes Classical Chorus Debuts With Handel’s ‘Messiah’

Highland Lakes Classical Chorus members rehearse for the upcoming performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ The free concert, which features a number of pieces from the oratorio, is 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at First United Methodist Church of Burnet, 301 E. Grave St. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Stephen Gennette and Kristine Robinson of First United Methodist Church of Burnet felt something was missing musically in the Highland Lakes. There were plenty of country bands, a number of rock and hip-hop groups, and a selection of choirs and choruses.

“There’s a group of musicians and singers around who love the classical choir music,” said Robinson, who is the church’s pianist and organist. “That’s where this came from.”

Gennette, the church’s music director, and Robinson decided to fill that niche with the formation of the Highland Lakes Classical Chorus, which began with church choir members but has since brought in people from other Highland Lakes congregations and community members. As a classical chorus, the group performs pieces from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods.

“Music by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and Handel,” Gennette pointed out.

The Highland Lakes Classical Chorus debuts in concert Sunday, Dec. 9, performing Handel’s most celebrated oratorios, “Messiah.” The performance is 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 301 E. Graves St. in Burnet. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

Members of the Heart of Texas Orchestra will join the chorus as well as guest organist David Polley of Southwestern University.

“There are three parts to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’” Gennette said, “but we’re performing the first part, the part most associated with Christmas.”

Handel’s work includes complicated selections, and it has challenged chorus members, but they’ve responded. The full chorus has met for several hours every Sunday since late October to prepare for this concert as well as on many Thursday evenings to work on pieces of the music.

Gennette and Robinson have chosen select movements of Handel’s “Messiah” for the performance.

And, yes, one of those selections is the “Hallelujah” chorus.

Several members will also perform solos during the concert.

Though initially performed in the Easter season, Handel’s “Messiah” has become associated with Christmas in more recent times. It’s almost a staple for choirs.

Gennette became enthralled with Handel’s “Messiah” while growing up in Garden City, Kansas, where a choir performed the full oratorio on Palm Sunday. Tackling the complete “Messiah” is still on the to-do list, but the performance of the selections from Handel’s masterpiece will be enough to enthrall audience members Dec. 9.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Gennette said, “but it’s going to be good.”

Call the church at (512) 756-2229 for more information about the concert.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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