The Florida State University Chamber Choir, featuring artist and scholar Annika Stucky and many other talented members as well as the Tallahassee Community Chorus Orchestra, resurrect a holiday classic with their final Dec. 2 presentation of Handel’s “Messiah.” , which follows the life and death of Jesus Christ.
Origins of oratorios
“I’m a nerd,” Stucky says, reflecting on the connection she feels when performing and studying Baroque composers like Bach and Handel.
Fortunately, the combination of nerd and artist leads to the birth of some crazy creators. With that in mind, we start with a bit of history.
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In the fall of 1741, in hiding, writing day and night against the withered wick, the German composer George Handel wrote the now iconic “Messiah.”
It premiered in London as an Easter performance the following year, interwoven with epic echoes of “Hallelujah” that have become a holiday staple today. The intimacy found in Handel’s work helped create a new genre of oratorio that moved away from plot-driven operas towards the looseness of storytelling and solo-driven music in Messiah.
Small but mighty choir
Traditionally, the messiah has been performed multiple times in a plethora of configurations within large choirs and parades of 500 people. However, Stucky experiences a very different approach as a member of the Florida State University chamber choir.
“It’s huge. It’s a long, very long job. Cover to cover, it takes about three and a half hours. Chamber Choir doesn’t do cover to cover,” said Stucky said.
She admits the production’s appeal lies in its small but mighty choir. “There’s something really special about the way we’re going to do it with about 30 people and a little chamber orchestra who can really pick up on the nuance of something that’s really familiar to a lot of people but then can be really high. into something special.
Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dr. Michael Hanawalt, uses the voices of 32-44 graduate and undergraduate students and FSU faculty and staff. The chamber choir serves as the master working ensemble. He constantly covers more important works like “Messiah” and more recent works like “Considering Matthew Shepard”.
Small town, big experiences
Stucky is a conductor, educator, and leader whose small-town lessons have carried her throughout her artistic and academic journey. Originally from Lindsborg, Kansas, known as Little Sweden USA, she graduated from Texas Christian University with a master’s degree in choral conducting. Stucky is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Florida State University choir direction.
She speaks fondly of the knowledge and experience she gained in her hometown.
“He has a very rich cultural heritage, and he’s really rooted in music. There is a small liberal arts college that for over 150 years has performed Handel’s Messiah at Easter. They performed Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,” Stucky said. “They do it with a community orchestra with over 500 singers in the choir. They hire soloists from across the country. So a small town of 3,500 people supports this kind of music. So it’s really rooted in the community.
Stucky’s Swedish heritage has contributed to his life with music. She learned to play the violin, viola, and piano at an early age and sang in the choir throughout high school. She masterfully equates praise articulation, space, tapering sound, and managing your bow with managing your tune when singing.
Stucky believes in a holistic approach to community choral conducting, an approach she credits to mentor and professor of music at Texas Christian University, Christopher Aspaas.
“A choir director is not just an orchestra conductor. It’s really about being a choirmaster,” Stucky said. “You have to intentionally design this culture and what this set is going to spread to the world… Not just the musical creation, but the human part is super impactful.”
A Tallahassee Choir Classic
Although Stucky has performed Messiah more than 10 times, she is thrilled to perform a fun pairing of Handel’s work with top musical professionals in her new home of Tallahassee.
“I always love orchestral symphonic music,” Stucky said. “There is something about this massive organism of humans. [We’re] everyone aspires to the same thing: everyone wants beauty, everyone wants expression, everyone wants to put something meaningful into the world. This, I just think, really transcends and captures humanity in this way.. and why I’ve done this all my life and continue to do so.
Indeed, Stucky and the Florida State University Chamber Choir have developed a performance that will put something beautiful into this world and are dedicated to sharing it with Tallahassee.
If you are going to
What: Messiah with FSU Chamber Choir & Tallahassee Community Chorus Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 120 W Park Ave.
Cost: $20 adults; $10 students
Contact: Tallahassee Community Choir; 850-597-0603; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For tickets, visit music.fsu.edu.
Dr. Christy Rodriguez de Conte is the Council on Culture and the Arts (COCA) Feature Film Editor. COCA is the Capital Region’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org).
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