PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The Music Department at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will present the UAPB Vesper Choir in their 61st annual performance of Messiah by G. F. Handel, on Sunday, December 7. The free, public event will begin at 3:00 pm and will be held in the J.M. Ross auditorium of the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts building.
This choral masterpiece occupies a unique place in music literature – it was composed in just 24 days and was judged by one newspaper critic during that era to be the “finest composition of Music that ever was heard.”
Messiah is composed of 53 separate recitatives, arias, choruses and instrumental selections, of which, the “Hallelujah Chorus” is the most famous. The Vesper Choir, soloists and orchestra will perform nearly all of this great composition.
The tradition of performing Handel’s Messiah signals the start of the Christmas celebration on the university’s campus. First presented in 1950 under the direction of Professor Ariel “Pops” Lovelace, Professor Shelton J. McGee continued the tradition of this annual performance with the Vesper Choir and orchestra for more than 40 years. Dr. Michael J. Bates, professor of Music and interim chair of the Department of Music has conducted the performance since 1999.
Dr. Bates and the 80-voice Vesper Choir will be assisted in the performance by Mr. John Graham, assistant professor of Music and director of bands at UAPB. Instructor in Voice and Assistant Choir Director Mr. Andee Book has assisted in the preparation of the Choir and the soloists.
Special guest alumni soloists will be Mr. Leon Walker, a tenor from Kansas City, MO and Mr. Charles Dove, a bass from Detroit, MI.
Charles Dove is a native and long-time resident of Pine Bluff, Arkansas and began singing at an early age at the New Town MBC, later becoming Minister of Music. While he was a resident in the city he became well known as a singer, director and soloist for many choirs and musical organizations throughout the state of Arkansas. Mr. Dove is a graduate of UAPB where he received the Bachelor of Music Education Degree. While there, as a part of the Vesper Choir, he sang the bass solos in the annual presentation of Messiah. Since becoming a resident of Detroit, he has continued his ministry in music by singing for various choirs in his church, The Holy Ghost Cathedral. In 2004 he joined Stagecrafters Community Theatre where he played “Joe” and sang “Ole Man River” in the musical Show Boat. In 2010, he joined the Rackham Symphony Orchestra Choir and has performed often at the Detroit Opera House. Mr. Dove appeared in the opera “Aida”, and was featured as Porgy of Porgy and Bess singing “Bess You Is My Woman Now” and “I’ve Got Plenty of Nothing”. He acknowledges the influence of his first formal music teacher, Mrs. Gladys McGee and of his first voice instructor, Professor Shelton J. McGee.
Student soloists include: Ms. Naocea Evans, Soprano, a Senior from Texarkana, TX; Ms. Phyllissa Dunk, Soprano, a Senior from Dallas, TX; Robin Roberts, Alto, a Senior from Memphis, TN; Wantara Tomlin; Alto, a Sophomore from Tulsa, OK, Davante Thornton, Tenor, a Junior from Hope, AR. The orchestra will consist of string players from the Little Rock and Memphis area with student wind players that are members of the University Bands. Other faculty assisting are Associate Professors, Milton Jackson and Dr. Richard Bailey. Local musicians participating will be Ms. Judy Warner, violin; MS Donna Lee-Thomas, flute and Mr. Timothy Clark, Trombone.