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‘Tis the Season’ to sing and slow down with Trinity Series


A musical duo invites the public to pause next Sunday to carry a tune instead of the pressures of the holiday season.

“There’s sort of a dichotomy at Christmas,” said Richard E. Probert, director and founder of Sackets Harbor Vocal Arts Ensemble, a group that has expanded to include singers from throughout Jefferson County. “On one hand, you have the retail side of Christmas. This is the other side of it, the more meaningful and quiet side.”

The Trinity Concert Series will present “’Tis the Season: ‘Messiah’ & Christmas Carol Sing-In” at 3 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St.

Mr. Probert and Kyle P. Ramey, organist and choirmaster at Trinity and founder of the series, described the concert as a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

“It’s time to take a little break,” Mr. Probert said. “We want to have a celebration of Christmas, what it really means, and the joy involved in that.”

Joining the Sackets Harbor Vocal Arts Ensemble will be the Trinity Episcopal Church Chancel Choir, for a total of approximately 60 singers.

Mr. Ramey will accompany the singers on Trinity’s 3,500 pipe organ, one of the largest organs in Northern New York. “I always bill this as an audience-participation concert,” he said.

Mr. Probert said people who don’t think they can sing should come and give it a try — or just listen.

“Everybody can sing,” he said. “Singing comes from the soul, not from the voice. The whole idea of this is celebration and fun.”

“Messiah,” by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), is a beloved holiday classic. The oratorio by the German composer documents Jesus’s life and its significance according to Christian doctrine.

“Messiah” has been presented several times in Watertown in the recent past, in various forms: Mr. Ramey has hosted “Messiah” sing-ins at Trinity twice. And in 2008, the Sackets Harbor Vocal Arts Ensemble presented the full concert at Trinity. In 2005, Watertown-based Northern Choral Society also selected it for its annual holiday concert.

“A lot of people ask us to do the ‘Messiah,’” Mr. Probert said. “It’s the chief piece of the Christmas season, a magnificent piece. We’re not taking it lightly.”

Interspersed with selections from “Messiah” on Sunday will be “familiar and unfamiliar” carols, Mr. Probert said. Among them will be “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Silent Night.”

The selections from “Messiah” to be included in the sing-in are: “And the Glory of the Lord,” “And He Shall Purify,” “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion” (with women singing the preceding Air), “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” “Pastoral Symphony” (organ only), “Glory to God,” “His Yoke Is Easy” and the “Hallelujah” chorus.

Soloists are Michaela Schied, Julia Sprague and Amy Renzi.

Audience members are advised to bring their own “Messiah” scores if they have them; some scores will be available to borrow. The Christmas carols will be sung out of the hymnal.

This is the fifth time that Mr. Probert and Mr. Ramey have collaborated on a concert.

“There are two kinds of collaborations,” Mr. Probert said. “One is simply putting it together — producing and directing. The other is the musical collaboration. Kyle and I get along very well musically. We seem to have the same thoughts as to how the music should be done.”

In May, the two will pair up again when the Trinity series presents Johannes Brahms’s “A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45” and the cantata “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Grant us Peace”) by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Mr. Ramey said there will be an open house and reception following Sunday’s concert featuring wassail and “Christmas goodies.”

The details
WHAT: Trinity Concert Series presents “’Tis the Season: ‘Messiah’ & Christmas Carol Sing-In”
WHEN/WHERE: 3 p.m. next Sunday, Dec. 16, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 227 Sherman St.
COST: Preferred seating is $14 for adults and $12 for senior citizens and members of the military. General admission is $12 for adults and $10 for senior citizens and members of the military. To purchase advance tickets, go to the series’ website at or call the church at 788-6290, ext. 3
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