On Sunday, December 2, 2007, The Sarasota Choral Society presented its 63rd consecutive annual performance of the Christmas portion of George Frederick Handel’s Messiah: A Sacred Oratorio at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church in Sarasota, Florida. Led by Artistic Director Deidre Reigel, the event featured soloists Jeanette LaVoy, soprano; Amy Connours, alto; Robert Lischetti, tenor; and Won Cho, bass; with an orchestra consisting of key players from the Sarasota Pops Orchestra, Fonda Davies on the organ, and an 80-member chorus.
The performance began with an organ prelude performed by Fonda Davies which concluded with her trademark rendition of “Joy to the World”. Included in the program this year: the Choruses “Surely He Hath Borne our Griefs” and “Let all of the Angels of God Worship Him”, the Recitative “Behold, I tell you a mystery” and Air “The trumpet shall sound” for bass, and the tenor Recitative “Unto which of the angels said He”.
The sanctuary at St. Armands Key Lutheran provided a very intimate setting for the presentation of this magnificent work of sacred music. We received many comments that this was the best performance of The Sarasota Choral Society to date. Many thanks to all who helped make this event so successful.
We are pleased to include the following:
Dear Sarasota Choral Society:
My parents and I had an opportunity to hear the performance of the Messiah this year at the Lutheran Church on St. Armands. I have been attending these events, as you will see by the attached for almost 50 years, although not every year. This was one of the the best performance I have ever heard. Congratulations! and Thank You! so much for the joy you bring to the community and to our lives personally.
I wrote the attached early in December, not knowing that you were hosting a tribute for Dr. Rohr and am forwarding it to you as part of your collection about her.
In addition, I attended Sarasota public schools in the 50s and 60s and Dr. Rohr was my music teacher then. My son, Brian Keisacker, also had the pleasure of being in the Boys Choir in 1987 or 1988 when he was about 12-years-old. What a wonderful learning experience it was for him to be able to have an opportunity to sing and perform under the direction of Dr. Rohr.
She has touched our lives in so many ways for many years and for that we are very grateful.
As a young girl growing up in Sarasota, for several years in the late 1950s, our family would attend the presentation of the Messiah at Christmastime, which was then performed at the First Baptist Church downtown by the Sarasota Choral Society. My great-grandfather, A. B. Edwards, the first mayor of the incorporated City of Sarasota and affectionately known as Mr. Sarasota, would accompany us. He was quite elderly then, well into his 80s, and did not drive anymore, so we would get dressed in our Sunday best – my father, my mother and my three younger sisters – and pick him up at his house on Roberts Point Road on Siesta Key. He would come out to the car dressed in his best dress hat and Sunday suit and topped off with his signature bow tie. His hair was snow white as was his well-trimmed mustache. He walked with a cane and never moved very quickly, just shuffled along.
As we arrived at the church, it was probably the closest I will ever know what it is like to be treated like royalty when he was with us because as we would stop to drop him off at the front of the church, old friends and local officials would gather round to say hello and help escort him inside. He was well loved and well respected by so many people. He never met a stranger and so many people would stop him or come over to say hello, that we had to get there early enough so people could pay their respects.
We would walk down the center aisle all the way up to the very front pew, which was reserved for him and his family. Dr. Julia. Rohr was the choir director then and would always acknowledge him. I remember how hard it was for me and my three sisters, all of us under ten years of age, to sit still through the entire performance. I always knew the end was near when we stood for the Hallelujah Chorus, which came to be my favorite part of the afternoon.
My great-grandfather passed away in 1969 and while he continued going to the office until he was around 90 years of age, he eventually was unable to attend the performance of the Messiah much after the early 1960s and passed away at the age of 94.
In keeping with tradition, my parents and I still occasionally attend and very much look forward to the annual event and as the Hallelujah Chorus begins, it brings tears to my eyes remembering what special times those were for my family as we celebrated the holidays together and the pleasure it brought to my grandfather and still brings to the community to this day. Now as a grown woman, well into my 50s and with grown children of my own, I treasure each moment of the performance, especially the Hallelujah Chorus.
Written in 2007 by Bonnie Burgess-Wiedeman