32-year Christmas tradition continues in Glenwood, Aspen
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Perhaps a small miracle by its own right, one of the Roaring Fork Valley’s longest-running holiday traditions, the Aspen Choral Society’s concert presentation of “The Messiah,” returns this week for the 32nd year.
Though not nearly on the scale of the Christmas story itself, or of Handel’s signature 1741 composition which tells the story in music – said to have been written in just 24 days – the local Messiah production has taken on a life of its own.
“In 32 years we’ve seen a lot of changes in the valley, but this has been one constant tradition that people can count on every year,” Ray Vincent Adams – who has directed the annual concert since it began – said in a recent interview before one of the weekly choir rehearsals at the Glenwood Springs United Methodist Church leading up to the big event.
The concerts combine two volunteer choirs that have been rehearsing separately in Glenwood Springs and Aspen for the past several weeks.
Come concert week, they join forces for one combined rehearsal and four holiday concerts – two each in Glenwood and Aspen – some 100 voices strong, along with a 15-piece orchestra comprised of some of the best musicians in the valley, as well as from Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Boulder and Greeley.
“We get a lot of the same top concert musicians coming back every year, and it’s because of the quality of this chorus and the excitement we create,” Adams said.
The Messiah is a Baroque Oratorio detailing the story of Jesus from birth to the crucifixion and resurrection, though the Choral Society presentation only features the Christmas section. The larger work is perhaps best known for the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which appears in the Easter section of the composition, but which Adams has traditionally included in the Christmas concert, along with the familiar “Amen” chorus finale.
Numerous soloists will perform the vocal arias that are a part of the piece.
The local tradition began in Aspen in 1977, and one year in the 1980s the late John Denver, who lived part time in Aspen, joined the chorus. Last year, the Aspen concerts were held at the historic Wheeler Opera House, in honor of the Wheeler’s 100th anniversary.
About nine years ago, Adams decided to expand the concerts to Glenwood Springs, since many of the singers, as well as audience members, were from down valley.
Instead of having the singers travel to Aspen for the weekly rehearsals, he decided to travel to Glenwood each week for rehearsals. “It just made sense for one person to travel, instead of 50,” he said.
“I had no idea that, after 32 years, I’d still be doing it,” Adams said of the production. “But every time I open up the score, it’s like saying hello to an old friend.”
He said his personal favorite was four years ago when his son, then a senior in high school, sang in the chorus.
“It really is the beginning of the holiday season for a lot of people,” he added. “I have people come up to me every year and tell me it isn’t Christmas until after they’ve been to a Messiah concert and heard the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus.”
The concert presentations take place Tuesday and Wednesday in Glenwood Springs at the United Methodist Church, 824 Cooper Ave., at 7:30 p.m. both nights. The Aspen concerts are Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11 and 12, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, also at 7:30 p.m.
A $10 donation to support the work of the Aspen Choral Society and to pay the professional musicians is asked at the door.
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