Willamette Choirs Perform Handel's Messiah

The Willamette Master Chorus and Willamette University Chamber Choir and Master Chorus Orchestra will perform Handel's Messiah Saturday, March 17, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 18, at 3 p.m. in Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center at Willamette University.

The performance will be conducted by Wallace Long, Willamette choral music director, with soloists Christine Welch, Lisa Actor, Les Green and Kevin Helppie.

"The Messiah, composed in just three weeks in 1742, is one of the greatest musical masterpieces of all time," Wallace said. "Written as one man's inspired expression of faith, the piece has transcended religion and culture to become the most performed oratorio in history."

One of the great traditions of Messiah performances began in 1743. George Frideric Handel's patron, King George II, stood in respect to the Almighty when the Hallelujah chorus began. The audience respectfully followed the monarch's lead, and the tradition of standing during the Hallelujah chorus continues to this day.

Typically, the oratorio is performed during the Christmas season. For this performance focus will be placed on the second and third parts of the work that speak to themes more relevant to the Lenten and Easter season.

"The performance will feature four of the Northwest's most accomplished soloists," Wallace said.

Mezzo-soprano Lisa Actor teaches at Oregon State University and Pacific University. A versatile performer in opera, oratorio, concert and recital music, Actor has performed numerous works in the Northwest and across the nation.

Tenor Leslie Green is in high demand throughout the Northwest. Praised for his expressive, seemingly effortless singing, Green performs a wide variety of literature ranging from Bach arias to contemporary art songs. Green maintains a private voice studio in Vancouver, Wash., and teaches at the Oregon Episcopal School.

Baritone Kevin Helppie maintains an active performing career, including recitals, oratorios, operas and popular music concerts. Helppie's operatic repertoire encompasses more than 20 roles, including the title characters in Le Nozze di Figaro, Falstaff and Don Pasquale. Helppie teaches at Western Oregon University and serves as director of music at Our Saviors Lutheran Church.

Soprano Christine Welch is on the music faculty at Willamette University, where she directs Voce Femminile and teaches studio voice. She is an active soloist and composer.

The Willamette Master Chorus got its start in 1985 with a performance of the Messiah.

"Now this performance has become a timeless Salem tradition," Wallace said. "We hope to heighten the Lenten and Easter season for our family and friends."

Adult tickets are $15, and student and senior tickets are $12. Discounted tickets are available for Willamette students and staff. To purchase tickets, visit, call TicketsWest at 1-800-992-TIXX or visit any Safeway TicketsWest Center. Purchases through TicketsWest include a handling fee. Tickets may be available at the door. Call (503) 370-6255 or visit for information.

This event is sponsored in part by the City of Salem's Transit Occupancy Tax Fund, with media sponsors the Statesman Journal and KGAL Radio 1580.