Sacred Music 2021


Enjoy the outstanding musical artistry of Camerata Chicago and its new choir performing the Messiah (Part I – Christmas) by Handel with the Hallalujah Chorus and Zadok the Priest. At the heart of our elite choir are some of the top choristers in Chicago. We have four wonderful soloists all conducted by Maestro Drostan Hall:

Josefien Stoppelenburg, Soprano
Lauren Decker, Mezzosoprano
Jonathan Johnson, Tenor
Gerard Sundberg, Baritone

Singers Josefien Stoppelenburg, Lauren Decker, Jonathan Johnson and Gerard Sundberg

Hallelujah Chorus: At these concerts the Camerata Chicago Orchestra and Choir will perform the famous and celebrated Hallelujah Chorus. We’ll perform it twice – the second time giving you the opportunity to join in for a truly rousing finale to this fabulous sacred music performance.

Hallelujah Chorus Lyrics PDF Download

We are very grateful to the Tyndale House Foundation
for their generous support of this sacred music series.

Sponsored by Tyndale House Foundation

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There are two editions of the December 11 Wheaton concert on our ticket system:

Audience tickets: For those of you who would like to be physically present in the audience to get the full orchestral and choral experience. If you purchase one of these you will receive a ticket to present at the box office as usual. You will need to wear masks. VIP tickets are available if you would like to be personally ushered to your reserved front-row seats.

Livestream Tickets: When you purchase a $20 livestream ticket you will receive a link to the livestream in your confirmation email but no actual ticket. You can purchase this also if you intend to watch later than actually billed – we will send you a link.

Please note that masks at these concerts will be mandatory.

The concert at College Church is presented by Camerata Chicago. It is not sponsored by or a function of College Church and its events.

Sacred Music 2021 Soloists

We have four great soloists for our 2021 Messiah concerts on December 10 in Chicago and December 11 in Wheaton:

Josefien Stoppelenburg – Soprano

Josefien Stoppelenburg performed several times for Dutch Royal Family. She is currently performing all over the United States as a specialist of Baroque Music and as a concert singer. Stoppelenburg performed most major oratorio works by Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart, including Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passion, Christmas Oratorio, Mass in B minor, and many of his cantatas. By the end of this season, Josefien will have performed all Bach’s cantatas for solo soprano…. read more.

Lauren Decker – Contralto

Rising star, Lauren Decker, possesses a booming contralto with “amber low notes” that is in a league of its own. She is lauded for “pouring out a dark, chocolatey sound with a plushness of tone and amplitude of voice rarely heard in a young singer”.

Ms. Decker most recently covered the role of Erda in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, 1st Norn in Götterdämmerung, and performed Schwertleite in Die Walküre as a part of David Pountney’s “brilliantly imaginative”, new Ring Cycle at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. … read more.

Jonathan Johnson – Tenor

Jonathan Johnson, Tenor - photo credit Simon PaulyRising young tenor Jonathan Johnson’s many recent engagements have included Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd at Opera Omaha, The Prince in The Love of Three Oranges with Opera Philadelphia (where he was named as one of their Emerging Artists), Jonathan Dale in Silent Night with Utah Opera, Beppe in I Pagliacci with Opera Colorado, the title role in Candide with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Utah Symphony Orchestra, and Des Moines Metro Opera; Hervey in Anna Bolena at Canadian Opera Company, Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago … read more

Gerard Sundberg – Baritone

5B-g-sundberg-lg[11]-400Gerard Sundberg holds both Master of Fine Arts and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Minnesota where he studied voice with Clifton Ware and Roy Schuessler. He is presently Professor Emeritus of Voice at Wheaton Conservatory of Music (Wheaton, IL), where he taught studio voice and vocal pedagogy. Living in the Twin City, MN area, he is an adjunct voice professor at Bethel University. Dr. Sundberg is also an active church musician, and vocal and choral clinician. … read more.

Messiah The Consequences of an Idea by Handel

Messiah: The Consequences of an Idea by Handel

I did see all heaven before me and the great God himself

The story of the Messiah by George Frideric Handel is drawn from numerous strands which intertwine together to bring the Word through music to millions every year.

Handel was born in 1685, the same year as Bach. Bach knew of Handel and enjoyed his music. They were born only 80 miles apart, and Bach wanted to meet the man, but never quite achieved that. Bach traveled to Halle, Handel’s home town in Germany, in 1719 on business, but Handel had actually left just the day before.

Handel’s father disliked music and forbade little George from learning but somehow he drank in the wonders of music. His aunt smuggled a silent keyboard into the attic and so he learned in secret. Then on an outing the little seven year old boy went with his father, who was a barber surgeon, to visit a client, the Duke of Prussia. George saw an organ at the Duke’s residence and sat down and played it. The mesmerized Duke insisted that his father give the boy lessons. His life changed forever!

Later, Handel went to Italy where he honed his craft writing Italian Opera and then he moved to London.

How Handel came to write Messiah – an Oratorio

Handel took London by storm in writing and performing Italian operas which were very trendy in early 18th century London. Suddenly the good and the great lost their interest in opera. Too many were being performed by too many theatres and opera houses and Handel’s audiences dwindled.

So he turned to the Oratorio for his musical productions. The Oratorio was invented, if you will, by Philip Neri. In 1556 Neri founded contemporary church services to attract the youth of the day in a building called an Oratory. He founded the order of the Oratorians in Rome. The Oratorio is a musical form setting bible stories and scenes from sacred history to music without any dramatic staging, using an orchestra, choir and soloists.

At the same time Handel’s friend Charles Jennens, a landowner and patron of the arts, wrote a theologically curated collection of Scriptures taken from the The King James Bible and the great Bible from 1539, inviting Handel to compose the music for it. They had already collaborated on an Oratorio called Saul which was very successful, partly because it was written in English.

Jennens writes to a friend in 1741:

“Handel says he will do nothing next winter, but I hope I shall persuade him to set another Scripture collection I have made for him, and perform it for his own benefit in Passion Week. I hope he will lay out his whole genius and skill upon it, that the composition may excel all his former compositions, as the subject excels every other subject. The subject is Messiah.”

Handel took up the project and wrote at a feverish pace … writing 100 pages (of 260) of it in 6 days and completing the Oratorio in just 24 days …. an extraordinary feat. Handel writing at that pace wasn’t unusual, but he was certainly inspired in his writing of this great Oratorio for while composing in tears he had a vision, saying to his servant “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of Angels”!

The first performance in Ireland in 1742 was a great success, but when he took it to London the following year it was a failure because many people at the time thought it was sacrilegious to have scripture sung in a theatre by music hall singers.

How Messiah came to be celebrated as the greatest choral work of all time

Seven years went by. Then Handel was struck by a groundbreaking idea … holding a benefit performance for the Foundling Hospital, the world’s first ever incorporated charity which was set up by Captain Thomas Coram to take in abandoned children. It had become celebrated by members of high society in London and a tourist attraction but it needed funds for its new chapel.

This idea made history! The Foundling Hospital eagerly allowed Handel to put on a huge performance of the Messiah in 1750 to raise funds, not in a theatre but in the hospital itself. He performed it there every year until he died in 1759. This is why the tradition of holding a performance of Messiah every year began and has been happening all over world for nearly 270 years.

Actually, these concerts started more than one tradition. The other is that the audience stands for the Hallelujah Chorus. King George II was present at one of these Foundling Hospital performances and he stood up during the Hallelujah Chorus. Everyone in the presence of the King also therefore had to stand and so the phenomenon was born. There are various theories as why the King rose to his feet at the point:

1. King George II happened to arrive late immediately before the Hallelujah Chorus. Everyone had to stand.

2. He had fallen asleep in the preceding numbers and stood up in sheer shock at the tumultuous sounds from the orchestra and choir.

3. He was truly moved and excited by the rousing chorus and stood up.

Perhaps it was the power of the verse Handel was using to write the Hallelujah Chorus from the book of Revelation 19:16 “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth”.

Camerata Chicago will perform the Hallelujah Chorus twice in its performances on December 10 and 11 – the second time inviting the audience to join in for a truly rousing finale to what promises to be a fabulous concert.

The consequences of one idea that Handel had are amazing … he was directly responsible for saving the lives of over 25,000 children, his Oratorio became a sensation, people all over the world perform it every year, and it has become the most celebrated piece of choral music ever written. It has been sung more often and heard by more people than any other single piece of music in the last 300 years. Some wonderful scriptural verses are sung to millions of people annually, and as the librettist Jennens put it “the subject excels every other subject. The subject is Messiah.”

Bartholomew Hall, Operations Director, Camerata Chicago