Workman brings MESSIAH to life this Good Friday


A combined performance by the Shawnee State University Choir and the Second Presbyterian Chancel Choir, under the direction of Dr. Stanley Workman, Jr., will highlight the classic musical masterpiece “MESSIAH” this week.

There will be four professional soloists, Jamaican soprano, Carline Waugh, from the Marshall University faculty; Portsmouth native, mezzo-soprano Michele Imes, SSU faculty; John Calkins Villemaire, tenor based in New Jersey; and bass, Jeffrey Tarr, a Portsmouth native and a member of the faculty of Texas Women’s University in Texas.

The orchestra will be made up of professional orchestral players from regional symphony orchestras, including Charleston, Cincinnati, Columbus, Huntington, and Morehead.

“Handel’s ‘MESSIAH’ is an oratorio, which, in many ways, is an opera without set, costumes, and lighting, etc. The music features four soloists, a choir, and orchestra. Its beautiful music is of the highest quality, challenging and inspiring. From both a teaching and ministry standpoint, I could give my students and church choir members no greater gift than the experience of performing Handel’s ‘MESSIAH.’”

According to Workman, Handel’s “MESSIAH” is considered to be the most famous large-scale sacred music composition. It takes about two and a half hours to perform, and was composed by Handel in 24 days. It contains one of the most iconic pieces of sacred music, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

The text for “MESSIAH” comes completely from the Scriptures and is divided into three parts.

Those parts include Prophecy and Fulfillment; Christ’s Passion, Resurrection, the Spreading of the Gospel; and The Believer’s Resurrection, and the Second Coming of Christ.

Workman has been performing portions of “MESSIAH” since he was a 10-year-old chorister, learning the “Hallelujah Chorus” and being completely enthralled with the music.

“I have performed as a chorister, as soloist, and as a conductor throughout my career as a musician.”

This will be the sixth performance at Second Presbyterian Church since 2000. Many of the choristers, soloists, and orchestral players have multiple experiences with “MESSIAH.”

“The experience one gathers from a performance of Handel’s ‘MESSIAH,’ whether as a listener or a performer, is extremely rewarding and edifying on both a musical and theological standpoint,” Workman said.

While the show is rewarding, the music is a challenging feat for the performers.

“The music is very challenging,” Workman claimed. “The solo and the orchestral parts demand professional level playing and singing, while the choral writing demands a very excellent choir that is willing to devote a large time to prepare the work. The chorus has been learning and preparing their part since January. The soloists and orchestral players train for years to be able to perform music of this difficulty, and have been reviewing and brushing up on the parts. As with our Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols in December, we will convert the sanctuary temporarily into a sacred concert hall.”

The performance will be given on Good Friday, April 7, 2023 at 3 p.m. in the sanctuary of Second Presbyterian Church, 801 Waller Street, Portsmouth, Ohio. The event is free and open to all.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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