Hallelujah, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County choir is celebrating the campus’ 50th year — and director Deanna Horjus-Lang’s 10th anniversary leading the ensemble — with a special performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”
On Sunday at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Horjus-Lang will lead the 58-member joint campus and community choir, plus a 13-piece string orchestra, in presenting the Christmas portion of Handel’s opus, plus the “Hallelujah” chorus.
“I wanted this to be something bigger, something that was a connected, continuous piece,” she said.
In addition to directing the performance, Horjus-Lang will deliver a solo. She’s a professional singer and teacher who has performed solos from classical works — including the “Messiah” — around the world. For the past decade she has led the mix of students and community members that comprises the “Boo U” choir.
“Her background as a professional chorister gives a unique starting place for her direction,” said choir member Mike Powers, himself a retired music teacher. “Not many people in the world can claim that they were paid to sing in a choir.”
“She works with some big names,” said the director’s husband and fellow soloist Anne Horjus. He said Sunday’s concert will be special. “It’s more of an authentic performance because most of the ‘Messiahs’ that are done are an adapted version done by Mozart,” Horjus said. “This kind of music needs to be done in a church and St. Joe’s acoustics are perfect.”
The choir traditionally has held two holiday concerts, but will perform only once — at 4 p.m. — this year due to the cost of hiring the professional musicians who make up the baroque orchestra.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” Horjus-Lang said. “It is the biggest concert we’ve done in my time with the group, so we are very excited about it.”
Selecting an 18th century masterwork represents a departure for Horjus-Lang, who typically opts for modern literature.
“She is dedicated to staying current,” Powers said. “Also, her experience as a vocal teacher makes each rehearsal like a group voice lesson. People love the challenge, and become better singers under her direction.”
A free-will offering will be taken during the concert to help the campus music program afford large-scale events like this one in the future.
Horjus said those who attend will leave full of holiday spirit. “It brings you right into the Christmas mood,” he said.