‘Messiah’ focus of Milligan performances

Published 9:09 am Friday, April 11, 2014


Marylynn Rouse, British historian and director of the John Newton Project, is pictured in front of the Amazing Grace display that will be on display at the “Messiah” concerts Saturday and Sunday at Milligan College. The display, which will be on display prior to and following the performance is on loan from the Amazing Grace Museum in St. Kitts, British Virgin Islands.

The Milligan College Concert Choir and Orchestra will combine with several local church choirs and professional soloists to present two concert performances of “Handel’s ‘Messiah’: A Celebration of God’s Amazing Grace” Saturday and Sunday, April 12 and 13.
The first performance will be Saturday at 7 p.m. The second performance will be Sunday at 3 p.m. Both performances will be held in Milligan’s Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Seeger Memorial Chapel and are open to the public. Tickets are on sale through 5 p.m. today in the Milligan Bookstore.
This performance, which is the United States premiere of “Handel’s ‘Messiah’: A Celebration of God’s Amazing Grace,” covers the story of Jesus’ passion. It intersperses dramatic readings from the sermons of John Newton with the Easter portions of Handel’s “Messiah” in a beautiful concert that will draw audiences to the powerful message of God’s amazing grace.
The original concept comes from a 2010 performance at the Gloucester Cathedral, given under the auspices of the John Newton Project. John Newton, a contemporary of Handel, preached more than 50 sermons from every biblical text in Handel’s “Messiah.” The Project’s objective is the transformation of society through faith in Jesus Christ, using the life and works of John Newton as one great example.
In addition, Marylynn Rouse, a British scholar with the John Newton Project, will be on hand to introduce each performance.
Rouse, director of the John Newton Project, this week has presented several lectures leading up to the concerts. For over a decade she has worked to transcribe the unpublished works of Newton, author of America’s beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”
Rouse is presently working on transcribing the unpublished hymns and correspondence between William Wilberforce and Newton. Her works, in fact, uncovered the then-lost Amazing Grace sermon Newton preached when he wrote the hymn, which holds the record for the largest number of different recordings in the Library of Congress.
The “Messiah,” while well known in its own, is not widely linked to Newton. Notwithstanding, Newton was inspired by the oratorio to preach a series of 50 sermons for over a year based entirely upon the pieces of the “Messiah.” It is these sermons that Rouse has helped transcribe and place as accompanying narrations within the context of the upcoming performances at Milligan College.
“We had longed to see others take up the idea of using Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in combination with Newton’s sermons,” said Rouse. “It is a great joy to share with Milligan College and local churches in using this as an outreach for the gospel and broadening awareness of the great truths of Jesus the Messiah, by combining musical skills with Newton’s rich biblical expositions of the words.”
In addition to the Milligan College Concert Choir and Orchestra, the choirs of three Johnson City churches — Central Baptist Church, Grandview Christian Church and Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church — will perform in the concert.
“One of the exciting aspects of this project is the opportunity to collaborate with so many musicians from our region,” said Noah DeLong, assistant professor of music at Milligan. “After our first rehearsal with the combined chorus, I was struck not only by the wonderful sound that such a large group can make, but also by the moving spirit of Christian unity that was evident among these servants who faithfully participate in various music ministries.”
To purchase tickets, visit the Milligan College Bookstore, open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call 461-8733. Tickets cost $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door and $5 for students.