Tradition With A Purpose:
Marking its 81st annual tradition of presenting George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah,” The Senior Choir of Historic Shiloh Baptist Church under the direction of Thomas Dixon Tyler mounted a purposeful experience, joined by the community choral forces of The Reston Chorale under the direction of David Lang, the University of the District of Columbia with Richard C. Odom and the compliment of voices from The Community Concert Choir of Baltimore.
by Patrick D. McCoy
The Christmas season is often filled with numerous performances of the oratorio “Messiah” by George Frideric Handel. As much as people love the choral work, sometimes there is the thought of whether it is overdone or is it time for something new. Conductor Thomas Dixon Tyler and the Shiloh Baptist Church Senior Choir doesn’t give the notion a second thought as each year, a fresh take on the work keeps its audience wondering what new innovative thing will happen at their annual performance. From past years staging the work in a dramatic fashion with costumes, to multiple area college music students featured as vocal soloists, Tyler again led the charge with yet another creative take on the classic work.
This year, the Shiloh presentation of Messiah truly took on the idea of community. Thomas Tyler shared his conducting platform with two local conductors; David Lang, artistic director of The Reston Chorale and Richard C. Odom, professor of choral music and conductor of The University of the District of Columbia Chorale. Odom in particular is no stranger to the Shiloh Messiah experience, having been featured as the tenor soloist in 2010. Along with the singers from their respective choral organizations, all three conductors divided the conducting responsibilities among them, leading the diverse aggregation of singers and full orchestra in a moving evening, heralding the Christmas story. In addition, a mainstay in the choir has been the participation of singers from The Community Concert Choir of Baltimore under the direction of Marco K. Merrick.
One of the big components of this presentation of “Messiah” at Shiloh is the discovery of ‘new’ talent in the area. Four talented soloists made their Shiloh “Messiah” debut. Joining the performance at Shiloh for the first time were soprano Lisa Eden, mezzo-soprano Janice R. Jackson, tenor Aurelio Dominguez and baritone Xavier L. Joseph. Each soloist lent their extraordinary talents to the performance, but it is certainly worthy of mention that soprano Lisa Eden was accorded generous applause after her rendering of the virtuosic aria showpiece “Rejoice, Greatly.” A special highlight was the showcasing of an aspiring professional countertenor, Malachi Johnson, performing the aria “He Was Despised” from the oratorio. The young singer performed with a sense of mastery and it would be wonderful to see how his pursuits progress.
Favorite choruses from the grand oratorio such as “And the Glory of the Lord,” “And He Shall Purify,” “O Thou That Tellest,” and “For Unto Us A Child is Born” stirred the hearts of the listeners as the voices raised heavenward in song. The famous “Hallelujah Chorus” was a majestic moment as the entire congregation rose to their feet, joining their voices in one resounding voice of praise. Organist Evelyn Simpson-Curenton provided solid organ accompaniment was an important component of the musical nucleus of the performance. The organ truly came into its full majesty as it accompanied the choir with the orchestra as Maestro Tyler brought the presentation to its finish with the towering chorus “Worthy is the Lamb that Was Slain.”
The Shiloh “Messiah” is one not to be missed. We await to see what will be the fresh component to next year’s rendering!
A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music from Shenandoah Conservatory. Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications, including The Washington Post, Early Music America Classical Music Voice North America, The Afro-American Newspaper, CBS Washington and Examiner.com. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., The American Choral Directors’ Association, a member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Board of Directors and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD. Visit http://www.patrickdmccoy.com