The South Shore Chorale’s MESSIAH

messiahBY Michael Casper

45 years ago The South Shore Chorale began as what was then, the Fond du Lac Oratorio Chorus under the direction of Ray Wifler who put a group together to perform a portion of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”  

John Bauerlein then directed the group for a couple of years before Alan Lemery took the podium for next 32 years.  Ten years ago, Cory Schneider took center stage. 

“We changed the name to South Shore Chorale several years ago,” Cory said “to offer a wider variety of concerts to the Fond du Lac community.  We perform two major concerts each year and have collaborated with a variety of other groups throughout the Midwest.  In addition, we have taken two performance tours, one to New York in 2011, and another to England and Scotland in 2014.”  

Schneider’s singers are true choral warriors.

“They are one of the most amazing groups of people I have ever worked with,” Cory said.  “The membership is definitely unique and something you don’t typically see in a community choir.  They come from all walks of life.  The common thread is that they love to sing.  One thing that makes us unique is that we have high school age singers, through veteran singers in their 80’s.  It is so cool to stand on the podium and see high school students singing next to their mom or dad (sometimes grandparent) in rehearsal.  We really embrace the multi-generational nature of the ensemble.  The students learn so much from the adults, and the adults love having the youth in the ensemble.  Music has no age limits.  It’s a lifetime activity that enriches your soul and makes you a better person.  It pulls together all these people for a common purpose.  There are a couple of singers who have been with the group since it was started 45 years ago!”

The interest, and numbers in the choir has grown.

“When I took over the group ten years ago,” Cory said “I think we had about 75 singers in my first concert.  I was thrilled with this!  Now, we average 160-170 singers each concert.  It is so humbling to stand on the podium each week to conduct these amazing musicians.  Fond du Lac is so lucky to have such a dedicated group of singers.  It doesn’t happen like this in many other communities.  The really neat thing is that many of my former Fondy High singers are now joining the ensemble.  It is so cool to see them keep choral music a part of their life!”

The Messiah is a seasonal favorite, and yet…

“The Messiah really wasn’t composed for the Christmas season,” Cory said “it actually premiered during the Easter season, and takes us on a musical journey from Advent through the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  While many people believe the “Hallelujah Chorus,” was written for Christmas, it wasn’t.”

The Messiah poses many challenges for both the conductor, and chorus. 

“The biggest is to perform this music with the size of our ensemble,” Cory said “originally, it would have been performed with 20-30 singers and a smaller orchestra.  We have 170, and an orchestra of 30.  Our choir has to work really hard to make the music come to life as Handel intended it.”  

The Chorale will sing specific portions of the piece.

“Since we are performing this during the Christmas holiday season,” Cory said “we will be singing the majority of the first portion which is set in Advent and Christmas.  We will also perform some of the more popular portions from Part Two and Three including the famous “Hallelujah Chorus,” and the majestic “Worthy is the Lamb,” and final “Amen,” chorus.

The Messiah is also known for its solo performances.

“We have four fabulous soloists,” Cory said. “Naiza (Delica) Gohr, our soprano, is a Fond du Lac native and one of my former students at Fondy High.  She earned a vocal performance degree from UW-Milwaukee.  Leigh Akin, our mezzo soprano, is from the Milwaukee area and is currently living in New York.  Our two male soloists, Cameron Smith (tenor) and Nathan Krueger (baritone) have sung with us in the past and we are looking forward to having them with us again.  Cameron is living in the Milwaukee area and Nathan is a voice teacher at UW-Oshkosh.  All four soloists have performed regularly throughout south eastern Wisconsin.  They will definitely be a treat to hear.”

A South Shore Christmas – Messiah
Saturday, December 5 – 7:30 pm
Fond du Lac High School Performing Arts Center
Tickets $10 (available at Wegner’s Office Supply, from Chorale members, or at the door)

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