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Arts and Entertainment

Messiah Project Returns With Two Live Performances This Saturday

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(Poster design courtesy Messiah Project, Inc.)
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Local Christian performing arts organization The Messiah Project will finally present a couple of live performances this weekend, after what Executive Director Lindsey Robison called “a dry year” because of the pandemic.  The show is called “The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength,” with two 50-minute performances on Saturday, April 17, at 5:15 and 6:45pm, at All Saints Anglican Church, 2751 E. Galloway. The concert will feature music ranging from Vivaldi to Enya, with conductor Nathan Cornelius leading the Messiah Project chorus and chamber orchestra, with concertmaster Dr. Larry Dissmore.       

“Yeah, we are about to come back to singing and rejoicing with some wonderful, joyful music tomorrow night. We’re just so excited to get singers back together. It's a small ensemble, and we’ll be masked with special singer masks.” The orchestra players will also perform masked. “And we'll also have some choreography, as Messiah Project usually does with most of its performances. And we're very excited to be back at All Saints to do this concert. The acoustics there are some of the best in the city. And so it's going to be quite a nice concert with music from Vivaldi and Mendelssohn to Enya, a contemporary composer. And then just a lot of very familiar and joyful music that are set to orchestra and chamber choir.”

According to Robison, the “Joy” theme was chosen for this concert after Messiah Project's voices and instruments were basically silenced for more than a year by the pandemic. The idea is based on the verse in Proverbs 17 that says “a joyful heart is good medicine.” “We certainly need medicine not only for our bodies, but for our souls and for our general attitude nowadays,” said Robison.

While the city of Springfield’s more open “Yellow Phase” of COVID-related restrictions goes into effect at 11:59 tonight, Robison said audiences and performers “will still be socially distanced for the biggest part. And we’ll all be masked.  Everybody who comes (to the concerts) needs to have a qualified mask.”  They had been planning on no more than 80 audience members at each performance, but since the “Yellow Phase” will be effect as of tomorrow, they may be able to squeeze in as many as 20 more people at both shows. “I don't think we can go over a hundred, though, for everybody else to be comfortable, you know? And so we want to respect everyone's comfort levels in that.” Family units can sit together, which Robison welcomed since, he said, “I’ve got nine in my family—my sons and their wives and eight grandkids!” 

Robison encouraged prospective audience members to go to https://www.messiahproject.org to make your free reservation for a seat. But be advised, 5:15 performance will probably indicate there are no more reservations, while at last check the 6:45 show only had 60 reservations, so there is definitely still room for that performance. “And we will assign seats, just like (Springfield) Little Theatre”—Messiah Project officials will create a seating chart for each performance, and Robison said he hoped they would be able to allow for a bit of extra seating in the back of All Saints’ sanctuary. But he readily admitted that, like most everything in the COVID era, they are having to make up the rules as they go along. “I'm sorry to have to say it--this whole world, it's a little bit uncertain how you're going to do everything. But we will make as much room as possible.” He said Messiah Project would analyze the seating-capacity situation later today “and get the leadership of the church’s okay on everything.” But he emphasized that making reservations at the Messiah Project website is highly recommended—don’t plan on just showing up and hoping to be seated.

Lindsey Robison said he was pleased to be working again with Nathan Cornelius, the choral director at Kickapoo High School, who will conduct both performances tomorrow. “Nathan did one concert for us several years at All Saints, where we did portions of (Handel’s) ‘Messiah.’ He's been in the choral conducting scene in Springfield for over twenty years. He's been a delight to work with in the rehearsals--so energetic. And then, of course, we've worked with Dr. Larry Dissmore for years. He did a tour to Mongolia with us. And so he's put together the chamber orchestra.” Almost the entire orchestra is comprised of Springfield Symphony players. “So it's going to be a really quality event.” And the musicians are, of course, well-practiced in maintaining social distancing on the stage, wearing masks, and even fitting the brass and woodwind instruments with protective masks.

In addition to holding each concert to a 50-minute running time (more or less in accordance with CDC guidelines), Lindsey Robison noted that All Saints Anglican also has “four really high-tech filters in the sanctuary, some up in the front and some in the back. They’ve done an excellent job of protecting the people, to make sure the air gets cleaned out.”

In addition to the two in-person performances, Robison said that online streams will also be available at messiahproject.org. “Messiah Project has such an international outreach.  (Central Daylight Time is) minus five hours GMT time.  So this afternoon we're sending out word all over for those friends that we've made over the years, to be able to see and celebrate a little joy.”

While admission is free, Messiah Project will receive offerings at both performances. And Executive Director Lindsey Robison emphasized that “for Messiah Project it's been a dry year. And if you want to support Christian arts, we certainly could use some support. You can go to our website and support us with your offering there as well.”