FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – With Christmas still more than a month away, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Master Chorale and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra proclaimed Christ’s birth through this year’s performance of Handel’s Messiah.

Under the direction of conductor David Thye, the chorale, orchestra, and performers Soo Hong Kim (soprano), Angela Cofer (alto), Leo Day (tenor), and J. David Robinson (baritone) performed the classic work, which the seminary has hosted for more than 90 years.

Members of the community as well as those with connections to the seminary filled Truett Auditorium to hear in music the story of Christ’s birth, death, and triumph over death through His resurrection.

For about 30 years, Gary and Loreta Montgomery have annually driven from their home in Willow Park, west of Fort Worth, to hear Messiah. The couple’s son-in-law attended Southwestern, but Gary said their only other connection to the seminary is that they are Southern Baptists.

“We can’t stand to miss it,” Loreta says of Handel’s most popular work.  “It’s just always so good.”

Over those 30 years, Gary said they have seen the seminary and even the city change drastically, but Messiah has been consistent.

“This never changes,” Gary says.  “That’s the good thing about it.”

Leo Day, dean of the School of Church Music, sang the tenor part of Messiah in this his first semester at Southwestern. The part was not new for Day, who has sung in many other performances of Messiah over the years.

“It felt great,” Day said of being asked to sing. “And [I] felt also a certain sense of weight that came with that.”

But despite the added pressure that came with being the newest member, Day enjoyed taking part in it.

“It was a very blessed event Tuesday night, and I had a really good time,” Day said. “It was very good, from beginning to the end. From the first note of the symphony … to the very last words, worthy is the Lamb who was slain for us, who paid the ultimate price on the cross for all of us so that we would be free.

Day said he could feel that sense of freedom in the room during the performance. Although he has sung in Messiah many years, Day said he was surprised when the audience clapped throughout the first portion of the performance.

“You have pity applause and then you have applause where you genuinely feel their enthusiasm coming back to you on stage,” Day said. “And that’s what I felt Tuesday night. … There was just an excitement out in the rotunda, and I [thought], ‘This is going to be a good night.’”

The audience participated not just by clapping but by standing and singing along when the familiar chords of the “Hallelujah” chorus played.

Day and the Montgomerys both say they look forward to participating in the performance, whether through performing or listening, in the years to come.