Chamber singers join RCO for magnificent holiday tradition

The Geneseo Chamber Singers kicked off the holiday season with a special opportunity to perform with the prestigious Rochester Chamber Orchestra, as directed by Geneseo’s own professor of music Gerard Floriano. The group of talented singers, along with the Bach Children’s Chorus of Nazareth College, performed Handel’s “Messiah” at Hochstein Performance Hall on Sunday Dec. 4. As the “longest-running Messiah in the region,” this full-length performance took the audience back to the time of German composer George Frideric Handel, with favorites such as the famous “Hallelujah” chorus. The two and a half hour masterpiece tells the story of Jesus’ life, from Nativity to Resurrection, and is a gem in the history of music.

But taking part in such a historic and beautiful tradition isn’t easy. The especially difficult and ornate music of the “Messiah” proved to be a challenge. The student choir rose to the occasion, however, representing the talent of the Geneseo community.

Students spent a good portion of the semester practicing their parts after classes, and the rehearsal schedule leading up to the performance was rigorous. In addition to their weekly rehearsals, the choir made weekend trips to Rochester to rehearse with the RCO at Hochstein and to Nazareth College to rehearse with the children’s choir. The dedication of the students is what made this concert feasible, with, of course, the unwavering support of Floriano.

In addition to the Geneseo Chamber Singers and the Bach Children’s Chorus, the performance featured four professional soloists: Geneseo alumna soprano Laura Heimes ‘90, mezzo-soprano Luthien Brackett, tenor Daniel Curran and baritone Jesse Blumberg. There were also some familiar faces in the orchestra, with adjunct faculty of music Jim Tiller on timpani and adjunct professor of music Herbert Smith playing the trumpet.

Despite the length of this famous composition, time flew by for the audience. Seated in a church-turned-performance-hall complete with stained glass and a “sweeping balcony,” the audience cheered long and hard for the performers when they concluded with a huge, wonderful “Amen.”

The numerous voices blended together beautifully, accented by the youthful sound of the children’s choir and the accompanying string orchestra. The sound of the choir, the orchestra and the soloists together resonated through the hall, filling the space.

Credit must, naturally, be given to the amazingly dedicated Floriano. In addition to his duties here at Geneseo, Floriano serves as artistic director for the RCO. He had an eye on all elements of the performance, expertly guiding the soloists, children’s choir and chamber singers—a truly impressive feat.

If you couldn’t make it to Rochester for this performance, don’t worry. The Chamber Singers will be performing the “Messiah” a second time, this time in Geneseo at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. The orchestra will be made up of Geneseo students and staff, and all of the soloists will be members of the choir.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see a work of musical genius in a beautiful space, as performed by your talented peers and faculty––and admission is free!

Arts and Entertainment section writer Gretta Cavatassi also contributed to this article.