By MATT CRANE
The Starkville-Mississippi State University Symphony Orchestra is ready to bring the Christmas spirit to Golden Triangle residents with its annual Criss Christmas Concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Starkville.
Symphony conductor Michael Brown said the first half of Tuesday's program features a performance of the "Concerto Grosso No. 4" and "Organ Concerto in B Flat" by George Handel, as well as a contemporary piece by Brazilian composer Ney Rousauro.
"For the 'Concerto Grosso' — meaning small and large — there are a lot of nice textural things that happen as the orchestra is playing and our featured soloists will be Shandy Philips, Joe Ortigeura and Browne," he said. "During the contemporary piece, our concerto winner, Sawyer Cooper, will be featured and conducted by his teacher Jason Baker, and that will be fun."
Brown said the concert's second half will feature a unique opportunity for community members to join the MSU Concert Choir is singing the four most popular choruses from Handel's "Messiah."
"The orchestra will be doing some arias and the overture, but the four choruses will be done by the concert choir and we invite people to join us on stage," he said. "We had a great turnout last year and we hope to have more this year."
Brown said those interested in singing with the choir should come to a 6 p.m. rehearsal Tuesday night before the concert begins.
"We started a number of years ago and initially when we did it we had three evening of rehearsals, but we found that people couldn't commit to that many," he said. "Those interested shouldn't stay at home because they think they might mis a note, because will 200 people singing together it can be quite powerful. We want more emphasis on the community."
On the topic of Handel's masterpiece, Brown said he marveled at the fact of Handel composition the piece in only 26 days.
"I don't think I could copy it in 26 days, and I just don't know how a human could write that music without divine inspiration," he said. "People have been singing it for over 300 years, so it's stood the test of time pretty well."
With the Lee Hall continuing its renovations, Brown said the symphony orchestra is committed to performing at First Baptist Church for the next two years.
"They've been so great with us," he said. "The people at FBC Starkville have been wonderful hosts and the acoustics there are great, and we just really love playing there."
Brown said with the outstanding caliber of players in the orchestra he cannot wait to help spread some Christmas cheer with Tuesday's concert.
"We're all looking for that moment when Christmas comes," he said. "Tuesday will be a night of wonderful music and you'll be placed in the Christmas spirit."
Sponsored by the J.W. Criss Foundation, the Starkville-MSU Symphony Orchestra's annual Criss Christmas Concert 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Starkville.
For more information, call 662-325-3070.