University to begin holiday season with Handel’s ‘Messiah’

The performance of “Messiah” by George Frederic Handel has served as the official start of the Christmas celebration on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff campus since 1953.

Now in its 59th year, the Vesper Choir will present its annual presentation of Handel’s “Messiah” at 3 p.m. Sunday in the John M. Ross Theatre of the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The Vesper Choir will be assisted by members of the UAPB Concert Bands and Wind Symphony and by guest professional string and woodwind performers.

Michael J. Bates, director of the Vesper Choir, will conduct the performance and will be assisted by John Graham Jr., director of bands, and Melissa Davis, assistant Vesper Choir director and instructor of voice. The concert master will be Christopher Thompson, former director of the String Division and professor of violin in the School of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

The performance will be accompanied by student and alumni soloists — soprano soloists, Naocea Evans, a junior from Texarkana, Texas; Jillian Smith, a senior from Kansas City, Mo.; and Phyllissa Dunk , a junior from Arlington, Texas. Jade McCracken, a senior from Atlanta, will perform the alto solos.

Special guest tenor soloist will be Leon Walker, an alumnus of the university and Vesper Choir from Kansas City, Mo. Singing the bass solos will be former Vesper Choir members and UAPB graduates, Devin Heggie from Kansas City, Kan., and Jacob Hurley from Kansas City, Mo.

Guest musicians will include Pine Bluff native and pianist, Julia Buckingham, a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Donna Lee-Thomas, an instrumental music teacher from Southeast Junior High as featured flutist; and LeManuel Williams, a senior from Dallas, Texas as featured trumpet soloist. Assisting as conductors will be Melissa Davis and Jerron Liddell, Dollarway High School Choir director.

For more information about the event, call (870)575-7001.