Story by Heidi Pool
When Celia Canty raises her baton for Maui Choral Arts’ annual Sing-It-Yourself Messiah, she has no idea who her singers are, nor whether they’re familiar with the parts. They’re the audience.
“Messiah [is] not easy to sight-read,” says Canty, Maui Choral Arts’ artistic director and conductor. You’d think the uncertainty would faze her. Yet, every year, “we are blessed to attract participants who know and love Messiah, and it sounds fabulous.”
On the mainland, where sing-along Messiahs are a tradition, there’s at least the possibility that audience members will know one another. On Maui, performers can be complete strangers—like the visitor from Texas who participated last year, mere hours after arriving on the island. “I’ve listened to Messiah before,” he told Canty after the performance, having belted out the “Hallelujah” chorus with a few hundred fellow choral-music enthusiasts, “but this is the first time I’ve been able to participate, and I am beyond thrilled!”
George Frideric Handel composed Messiah in 1741; the work premiered a year later in Dublin, Ireland. Australia’s Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir claims the world record for consecutive Messiah performances—at least once a year for the past 157 years.
Maui Choral Arts has a way to go to compete with that record; the November 28 performance will be its tenth. But the venue is a lot more convenient: the Hyatt Regency Maui’s Monarchy Ballroom in Ka‘anapali.