For The 68th Year, It's "Messiah" Time in Rockford

Nov 27, 2013

Credit Rockford Choral Union

The Rockford Choral Union presents its 68th annual performances of Handel’s oratorio “The Messiah” Saturday and Sunday, November 30 and December 1, at Rockford’s Trinity Lutheran Church.  Nat Bauer has led the performances for the last 12 years. Bauer says the Choral Union was begun back in 1945, as members of the armed forces were returning home from fighting in World War 2.

“The Lutheran churches got together and said we need to do something to welcome everybody back, so they got together and said let’s do Messiah.”

Rockford Choral Union Music Director Nat Bauer
Credit Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Bauer says while the performances originally began with the city’s Lutheran churches, today more than sixty-five different organizations involved in the concerts. And , he says, the 130 or so singers in the choir broadly represent the community.

“We have Methodists , Catholics, Presbyterians, Mormons,  non-church people, so it’s a cross section.”

Bauer says one of the things he’s tried to do during his tenure is to encourage young people to join. Bauer says, at first some did not like the idea, but that’s changed, and now college and high school and even younger singers are part of the mix of the choir. An important part, Bauer says.

“What I found is that they continue coming, and this is the future in my thinking for any volunteer organization.”

Bauer says the greatest challenge in putting on “The Messiah” is the limited amount of time he and the chorus have to rehearse-two hours once a week for six weeks.  Bauer says that’s really not enough time to thoroughly rehearse so many choruses, some of which a quite difficult.  But Bauer says the members of the choir work very hard to learn the music and some of the old-timers have it all memorized.  He says one thing he always concentrates on is diction.

“As beautiful as the music may be, if you don’t get the message out, don’t get the words clear, we’ve lost a whole lot of what [the] Messiah is all about.”

Bauer says he and the Rockford Choral Union continue to do “The Messiah” because it touches people’s lives. He says the work means a great deal to him personally. He says, over the years, it has become clear to him how much it means to the members of the choir and of the community.

“Some people say ‘it begins our Advent season.’ Others [say] ‘it gave us strength through difficult times.’ This is why we do this. We feel it’s a gift to our community.”

It’s a gift that Bauer hopes the Rockford Choral Union can continue to give for many, many years to come.