Messiah to be performed Friday

The Chancel Choir of Second Presbyterian Church and the University Choir and Chorale of Shawnee State University will present George Frideric Handel’s sacred masterpiece Messiah on Good Friday at 3 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church, 801 Waller Street, Portsmouth.

The choirs and full orchestra are under the direction of Dr. Stanley Workman, Jr., Director of Music at Second Presbyterian Church and Vern Riffe Center for the Arts Director and Visiting Professor of Music at Shawnee State University. The performance is free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend the special performance of one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

Soloists for the performance include Carline Waugh, soprano; Leah Heater, mezzo soprano; Bobby Gomez, tenor and Jeffrey Tarr, bass.

Carline Waugh, a Jamaican-born soprano, is a powerful singing actor who continues to thrill audiences around the world. She has given recent performances in Russia, Finland, Italy, Austria, the United States, and the Caribbean.

Waugh started her music career studying with Portsmouth native Faith Esham at the Atlantic Union College in the Bachelor of Music program. She later earned a Master of Music Degree from the University of Mississippi under Dr. Nancy Maria Balach, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from Louisiana State University under the tutelage of Dr. Loraine Sims. Waugh currently serves Marshall University and the Southern region as a performer and teaching artist.

As the newest voice faculty member at Marshall University, Waugh said, “I am delighted to be reaching out to the surrounding areas to share this beautiful music. This is a huge project and I applaud Dr. Workman and the choirs of Shawnee State University and Second Presbyterian for taking it on.”

“Messiah is often done in separate sections, the Christmas portion and the Easter section. This will be my first time singing the work in its entirety as it was meant to be performed and I’m beyond thrilled. I believe this music is divinely inspired and I feel honored to share it!”

Mezzo-Soprano Leah Heater just finished the Resident Artist Program with the Pittsburgh Opera, where she sang the roles of Flora in La Traviata and the Page in Salome, in which she “impressed” with her “solid low register” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). She also portrayed the title role in Riccardo Primo, Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, Jessie Castner in The Long Walk and the role of Cecelia in Little Women.

Heater reflects, “I have been performing Messiah now for over a decade, either as a soloist or a member of the chorus. To me, it is always a joyful, communal, and spiritual experience. I grew up singing in my grandmothers’ churches, one of which was a Presbyterian Church in Gassaway, West Virginia. Singing in church always connects me with them, as they have now left earth. This experience at Second Presbyterian will surely reach their ears.”

Heater graduated from the Masters and Artist Diploma Programs at University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music where she performed many works. In June of 2015 Heater made her Carnegie Hall debut as mezzo soloist in Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem and was praised by the New York Concert Review for her “exquisite voice”.

Gomez is a junior in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Musical Theatre program with a minor in Dance at Shawnee State University where he is a student of Dr. Stanley Workman.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Gomez has had a passion for singing since he was 7 years old and has graced the stages of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts for SSU productions in roles including Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone; Willy in The Gifts of the Magi; Lamar in Godspell; Tajomaru in Rashomon; Jesse Vanderhof in Promises, Promises; Alexander Throttlebotom in Of Thee I Sing, David in Company, and Jinx in Forever Plaid.

When he’s not studying or performing, Gomez is an artistic gymnastics instructor and a circus artist. He is also a second-year Choral Scholar at Second Presbyterian Church.

About performing as the tenor soloist for this Messiah performance, Gomez says, “I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to perform as a soloist for Messiah. I hope this of the first of many occasions when I can share in this masterpiece.”

Portsmouth native Tarr received his Masters of Music Degree from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University and has performed with the Maryland Concert Opera, the Baltimore Concert Opera, the Chesapeake Chamber Opera, the Washington National Opera and others. He has also performed with many companies in Germany.

Acclaimed for his “rock solid vocalism and powerful projection” and his “fervent, robust” stage presence, Jeffrey Tarr is an emerging bass who appeals to audiences and critics alike. Tarr is a former prize winner in the NATSAA-Mid-Atlantic Regionals, Annapolis Opera Competition, the Orpheus Vocal Competition, the Marie Crump Vocal Competition and the Gretchen Hood Vocal Competition.

About singing under the direction of Dr. Stan Workman and with the Shawnee State University Choir and the Second Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir in the Good Friday performance of Handel’s Messiah, Tarr said:

“It’s been over 20 years since the last time I have sung professionally in my native town of Portsmouth, Ohio. In fact, it was singing one of the bass solos from Handel’s Messiah with the Shawnee State Choir shortly after I had completed my undergraduate degree in Tennessee. Since that time, I have sung this musical masterpiece many times, but it remains as fresh and powerful as it was on that occasion.”

“The upcoming performance at Second Presbyterian Church is important to me because it will give me an opportunity to share my personal growth as a professional singer with my childhood family and friends and it will allow me to share this most iconic oratorio with my hometown.”

“Dr. Stanley Workman was very influential to me as a young singer. He encouraged me, taught me, and gave me opportunities to learn my craft. I have carried many of his words in my heart and now share them with my own students. It is a great honor for me to be under his skillful leadership in this capacity.”

“I hope that many people will come to experience this monumental work,” Tarr concluded.

Further information about the Good Friday presentation of Messiah may be obtained by contacting the Second Presbyterian Church office at 353-4159.


Workman directed past performances of Messiah in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2014 at Second Presbyterian Church and in 2009 at Shawnee State.

Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed by Handel in 1741 with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742,

and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio has gained in popularity through the years.

Handel’s reputation in England, where he had lived since 1712, had been established through his compositions of Italian opera. He turned to English oratorio in the 1730’s, in response to changes in public taste. Messiah was his sixth work in this genre. Although its structure resembles that of opera, it is not in dramatic form; there are no impersonations of characters and very little direct speech.

Instead, Jennen’s text is an extended reflection on Jesus Christ as Messiah. The text begins in Part I with prophecies by Isiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in Heaven.

Further information about the Good Friday presentation of Messiah may be obtained by contacting the Second Presbyterian Church office at 353-4159.