FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Oratorio Chorus will join the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra to perform Handel’s “Messiah” during the Christmas season. They will perform at the seminary’s Truett Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 29, and at the Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth, Dec. 4.

The seminary’s Oratorio Chorus first performed Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 20, 1921, and they have continued the tradition as a celebration of the Christmas season. The performance in Truett Auditorium is free and draws many members from the community to the seminary.

“We at the School of Church Music believe that people in our community need to hear the Gospel, and believers in our community need to be constantly reminded of the Gospel,” Stephen Johnson, dean of the School of Church Music, said.

The text of “Messiah” is derived completely from Scipture, he added. The piece begins by recounting prophecies about Christ’s first and second advents. It then moves on to depict His birth, ministry, death, resurrection and glorification. Following this, “Messiah” expresses the need for proclaiming the “Gospel of peace,” and it compares worldly nations, which rage in vain against the Lord, to the imperishable kingdom of God. The endurance of God’s kingdom inspires the famous chorus, “Hallelujah,” followed by a declaration of Christ’s victory over death.

Johnson recounted how composer George Frideric Handel, after his London premiere of “Messiah,” visited a nobleman who called the piece “noble entertainment.” Handel, however, insisted that he wrote “Messiah” to make people better, and not just to entertain them. Similarly, Johnson said he hopes that, during this year’s performance, “we are confronted with the work of Christ and are thus made better for it.”

“Messiah” will feature four soloists: Anne Beloncik as soprano, Angela Faith Cofer as alto, Scot Cameron as tenor, and J. David Robinson as baritone. Additionally, this is the first year for the performance to be conducted by David Thye, professor of conducting and Robert L. Burton Chair of Conducting at the seminary.

“Thye brings much energy to the choir and orchestra,” Johnson said. “I believe that we will sit in amazement on the emotive power of this piece’s ability to communicate the Gospel. For many, it will be the first time they hear it. For many who have heard it, it may still be the first time they really hear it.”

"I am thrilled to conduct this year’s performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’,” Thye said. “There have been few aesthetically stimulating gifts to humankind that have been appreciated more than Handel’s great oratorio ‘Messiah’ … I would be honored, if those in attendance this year, would truly see and experience the awe-inspiring presence of our awesome Lord and Savior by the passionate rendering of these fine musicians.
Though the Nov. 29 performance of “Messiah” is free, seating preference will be given to ticket-holders. Tickets may be reserved on Southwestern Seminary’s Web site, For ticket information about the Dec. 4 concert at the Bass Performance Hall, call 817.665.6000.