Harry Cunningham

Harry Cunningham has served as director of ‘The Messiah’ for nearly 30 years. The 79th annual performance is set for Sunday at First Alliance Church.

On Sunday, the halls of the First Alliance Church will be filled with the sounds of George Frideric Handel’s “The Messiah.”

Written for the funeral of Queen Caroline in 1737, a group of nearly 60 performers will massage the oratorio through its 79th annual performance in New Castle from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the church located at 111 Mission Meade Drive.

The event is free and open to the public. A free will offering will be accepted to offset the costs of production.

For veteran director Harry Cunningham, the annual event is more than just crescendos and decrescendo.

“It is a fantastic musical, artistic opportunity for the community,” said Cunningham, who is entering his 29th year at the helm of the production.

“We look forward to sharing it with the community.

“This is a spiritual event for so many people from the region,” he said. “People come from as far as 90 miles away.”

In the past, Cunningham said, the performance had featured as many a 200 performers. This year, there will be roughly 60.

“Every year we are able to welcome, maybe two or three or half a dozen, performers who have sung with us,” he said. “We are very pleased to have them with us, and some of them have never sung ‘The Messiah.’ “

Performers this year include Soprano soloist Jenifer McMurdy Mostard, Alto soloist Patricia Flowers Jacobina, Tenor soloist Nathan Mohney, Bass soloist The Reverend Nathan Loudon, trumpeter Andrew Erb, organist Kathy Miller, pianist Debra Johnson, interpreter-in-sign Michael Boston, and director Harry Cunningham.

The music selection includes “And the glory of the Lord”, “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion”, “For unto us a Child is born”, “Glory to God”, Behold the Lamb of God”, Surely He hath borne our griefs”, “Let all the angels of God worship Him”, “The Lord gave the word”, “Hallelujah”, “Since by man came death”, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain”, and “Amen.”

Cunningham said he continually hears the same response from the crowds year after year.

“The feedback is always positive,” said Cunningham, who retired after more than 40 years as a music instructor and choral director at Moniteau Area School District. “They are thrilled. They are absolutely thrilled with what we are able to do with a limited number of performers.

“The audience is always ecstatic and amazed at how much sound we get. All our performers are very accomplished. Everyone is a super artist. We are pleased to be doing this in the New Castle area for all these years.”

The event is supported in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Assistant Editor

Brent Addleman is the assistant editor at the New Castle News. Email him at BAddleman@ncnewsonline.com.

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