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This Weekend: Duke Chapel Choir Performs Handel's Messiah For Worldwide Audience

Shorter winters mean fewer days between the first and last freeze in any year.
Duke University via Duke Today

This weekend there is a series of performances of Handel's Messiah at Duke Chapel in Durham, N.C. The tradition has been going on for 81 years. This year the performance will be recorded live and broadcast throughout the state and the world.

Dr. Rodney Wynkoop is the Director of Chapel Music at Duke University. He says that the text of the Messiah tells the entire story of the redemption of the world.

Handel's Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742 and it has since become one of the most popular of all choral orchestral work.

In addition, he says, a performance at at Duke Chapel itself adds something special.

"I think that there is a warmth to the building that helps us hear the music in a way that [makes the music feel] personal, despite the size of the space," says Wynkoop. "The scope of the building encourages us to hear the music with a sense that there is something larger than us that we are about to experience."

'It's simply mesmerizing. And it lies right at the center of the work and is emblematic of the whole thing.'

Many audience members and performers alike are drawn to the majesty of the hallelujah chorus. But Wynkoop says that after conducting the piece numerous times, he thinks the key turning point is the chorus, 'All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray.'

"What's remarkable about it is, after listening to the chorus literally go astray (cavorting, having great fun ... being essentially sinful) the music comes crashing to a stop," says Wynkoop. The music becomes quiet and slow and the chorus sings the words "And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

"So for all of our sinful ways," notes Wynkoop, "suddenly we turn to look at Christ and the purpose of his life on earth. It's simply mesmerizing. And it lies right at the center of the work and is emblematic of the whole thing.

The encore live stream is Saturday Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. Information here.

Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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