The Community Chorus of Kinston/Lenoir County joined forces with soloists and members of the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra to perform selections from Handel’s oratorio Messiah, under the direction of John O’Brien. The community chorus was augmented by the presence of twelve singers from the Crystal Coast Choral Society, making forty-seven singers in all.

The soloists were Mahari Freeman, soprano; Makudu Senaoana, tenor; and Walter R. Swan, baritone.

The venue, the spacious First Presbyterian Church, was full, fire-marshal full, with a festive theme of holiday dress making a sparkle. The singers were clad in white and black for the most part, with the soloists sporting more individuality – Freeman was in a sparkly evening dress; Senaoana in black tie. Swan was in a dinner suit with a black waistcoat, red necktie with stand-up collar, and a red pocket square; in addition, he was wearing what appeared to be a black knit beanie with the brim rolled up.

The orchestra was strangely balanced, with six violins and only one each of viola, cello, and violone. There were also two oboes, two valveless Baroque trumpets, and timpani. The continuo was provided by the violone, theorbo (very effective), positive organ (played by the conductor), and harpsichord (completely inaudible).

The program was selections from Part the First of Messiah, all quite suitable to the season, along with the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the end of Part the Second.

The overture was brisk and musically balanced in spite of the numerical imbalance of players. As mentioned, the harpsichord was, strangely, totally inaudible here and throughout the evening.

Senaoana’s tenor voice was very clear and offered a strong ad lib in the recitative and aria “Comfort Ye My People” and “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.”

The important part, the best part of this concert, was the chorus; their delivery of “And The Glory Of the Lord” was all that could be asked for, with crisp delivery and sparkling intonation.

Swan’s phrasing in “Thus Saith The Lord Of Hosts” was deft, although there was a strange imprecision in some of his intonation. He handily covered up his missed entry in “But Who May Abide.”

In the chorus, “And He Shall Purify” the sopranos absolutely nailed that entry, and the entire ensemble was extremely accurate as well as lovely to listen to in “O Thou That Tellest.”

The recitative “For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth” was taken at a very convincing and stately tempo; “The People That Walked in Darkness” was quite inspiring. In the chorus “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” the tenors were especially delicate, projecting well without shouting. The soprano recits and arias for Part I, Scene Four were perfection itself.

Other selections included “Glory To God,” “Rejoice Greatly,” “Come Unto Him,” and “His Yoke is Easy.” The concluding “Hallelujah Chorus” brought everyone to their feet, with much applause following.

The thirty-six generous sponsors are too many to name individually, but much credit to them for making this possible. The event was partially funded by a Grassroots subgrant from the Community Council for the Arts through the North Carolina Arts Council.