performers on darkened stage from 2018 Production of Lucretia

Tis the Season

University Singers shine with rousing ‘Hallelujah’ with NJ Symphony Orchestra.

Posted in: Cali News

Large choir poses in a cathedral.

The Montclair State University Singers performed the “Hallelujah” chorus in sold-out holiday concerts of Handel’s Messiah with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO). Their performances shined; as one music critic put it, “Their youthful sound was refreshing as it was well-phrased and delivered.”

The concerts, December 16 in Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University and December 18 in the Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, marked the return of the Christmas tradition after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. It was a joyful experience for both the symphony, conducted by famed Music Director Xian Zhang, and the Montclair students.

“The artistry of all musicians, conductors and collaborators were off the charts,” says Marla Gordon, a graduate student studying Music Therapy. “This will be one of my favorite college memories forever.”

Under the direction of John J. Cali School of Music Professor Heather J. Buchanan, the University’s flagship choir has been recognized for successful collaborations with numerous world-renowned artists and celebrated professional musicians. Performing Messiah with the NJSO as it celebrates its centennial is among the highlights, Buchanan says. At the weekend’s performances, more than 3,000 people rose to their feet at the opening sounds of the glorious “Hallelujah” chorus.

“Friday night’s performance in Princeton was ‘next level’ – the acoustics of Richardson Auditorium and the intimacy of the venue makes it our absolute favorite,” Buchanan says. “Xian ‘played’ the choir to the max and truly elevated the music – it was fierce and thrilling – unlike any Messiah I’ve ever experienced. It was a tremendous success.”

Sunday’s performance of the masterpiece rang through the soaring cathedral architecture, featuring 77 Montclair voices, with nearly all of the students and alumni experiencing their first singing of the complete masterwork, Buchanan says. Collaborative artist, Steven W. Ryan, is their accompanist.

“Of all the years I’ve been doing Messiah with this choir, this was perhaps my favorite,” says Justin McBurney, a graduate student studying Vocal Performance. “The youthfulness in terms of our collective experience with Messiah this year led to a lot of really wonderful excitement on stage, and a few moments that were positively electric.”

Montclair State University Singers fill the transept of the soaring architecture of Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “The positive energy in the room was contagious,” says soprano Noelle Dadon.
Altos in their formal attire pose for a selfie in Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
At Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium, Montclair’s tenors and basses await the performance.
Professor Heather J. Buchanan, center, conducts the Montclair State University Singers.
Professor Heather J. Buchanan, center, relaxes in the Cathedral Basilica with members of the University Singers.

Photos courtesy of the Montclair State University Singers.