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Christmas Memories of Shawnee Messiah Sing-In

Handel’s Messiah: A Pocono Tradition

This year marks the 39th performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Shawnee Playhouse.

I started practicing law at the firm in 1986 and, shortly thereafter, began performing in the Orchestra as principal oboist. Quite candidly, I was typically the only oboist but I wear my badge as “principal oboist” proudly.

There were no orchestral rehearsals prior to the performance. The musicians would receive the sheet music a few weeks before the concert and most of us were performing with each other for the first time. The audience sat in sections identified by their singing voices: Soprano, bass, …

There was always a blazing fire in the fireplace, which created great atmosphere. However, when the smoke backed up, there were times when I became too overwhelmed by smoke to perform and missed performing several lines of music.

The Playhouse was not typically heated during the week and when we arrived, the area next to the fireplace was nice and toasty, dare I say blazing hot, but the stage area had a chilly “arctic” breeze blowing through. For those musicians reading this, you’ll understand that the cold wreaked havoc on an instrument’s tuning and I was always fighting to stay in tune after sitting silent for several movements until it came my time to play.

We all felt sorry for whomever was tasked with playing the trumpet part in “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” The trumpet player essentially sat there until the very end, with the cold blowing across the stage, not playing much of anything until called upon to play a very challenging solo.

Occasionally, we stopped and re-started the music. It was all part of the fun. Singing out of tune was never an issue. The house was always packed. Hot chocolate was served during the break and parking was difficult.

Ginny Kirkwood was the inspiration behind all of this and invited me after the performance to her home to sing Christmas carols with the family. Thanks, Ginny.

The Messiah is a great local tradition that I equate with watching the Grinch and Charlie Brown Christmas. Thanks for the memories.

~Jerry Geiger


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