The San Antonio Messiah is a multi-faith choir and orchestra from the San Antonio area who come together once a year to perform Handel's Messiah as a free service to the community. Participants come from 30+ different churches and 70+ different congregations.
All are welcome to either participate in the rehearsals and perform with us or to come enjoy one of our free performances!
The conductor, Susan Slaugh, grew up listening to Handel’s Messiah as a child and had always desired to organize community performances of the Messiah so that others could have a chance to partake in the beautiful music and message. In 2008, she was called to be the Stake Music Chair at her church and immediately made preparations to begin a community Messiah. Unbeknownst to Susan, two other leaders at church also wanted to begin performances of Handel’s Messiah, Michael Freckleton and Lisle Updike, and she later found out that her local church had previously put on community Messiah performances a decade earlier. So, when Susan presented the idea in 2008, the groundwork of desire had already been laid, the idea was immediately approved, and Messiah preparations began!
Susan and her assistant, Kelly Black, formed a small committee to help organize the Messiah rehearsals and performances and Shelly Craig volunteered to be the Messiah pianist. They decided to let all adults who wanted to sing in the choir join without auditioning. Susan also wanted other local musicians to have an opportunity to use their talents so they formed a live orchestra to accompany the choir. Michael Freckleton wanted the Messiah to be a family event and asked that the committee organize a Youth Choir and a Children’s Choir to provide a short opening act to the Messiah. The committee also made the decision to have more than the traditional four soloists, so that more people could have the experience and opportunity to become a soloist. Prelude music was organized to set the tone for the Messiah performances. And in 2009, the San Antonio Messiah performed three glorious performances where the message of Jesus Christ was both felt and heard.
The San Antonio Messiah has grown tremendously from 2009 to now. The Messiah Choir has grown in participants from 111 to 241, the Full Orchestra from 44 to 66, the Youth Choir from 34 to 69, and the Children’s Choir from 41 to 93. The audience size has grown to over 1800 people over three performances. And what started off as a community event with participants from only a handful of different churches, has now grown to participants being from over 30 different churches and over 70 different congregations.
In 2009, rehearsals were held in a
smaller church building where pianos had to be pushed from
room to room to be used. Susan
Slaugh, the conductor, rehearsed the orchestra for 1 ½ hours
and then the choir afterwards for another 1 ½ hours. Now all
rehearsals are held simultaneously in the much larger church
building that we currently use with over 20 volunteers
assisting. For the 1st annual Messiah
performances, Susan was 8 months pregnant, did not own a
conductor’s podium, and so she carefully stood and balanced
on two chairs to conduct the choir and orchestra. The
following year she stood on a paint ladder and then Charles
Jewel volunteered to build a large conductor's podium for
the Messiah, which is still used today.
Slaugh founded and produced the Messiah from 2009-2011,
Tracy Gudmundson from 2012-2014, and Susan began producing
again from 2015 to now. The
Messiah Production Committee strives to improve and make
changes each year with the most recent upgrades being to
advertising, sound equipment, audience seating, digital
rehearsal sign-ups, the prelude Youth Orchestra, etc.
Susan Slaugh founded and produced the Messiah from 2009-2011, Tracy Gudmundson from 2012-2014, and Susan began producing again from 2015 to now. The Messiah Production Committee strives to improve and make changes each year with the most recent upgrades being to advertising, sound equipment, audience seating, digital rehearsal sign-ups, the prelude Youth Orchestra, etc.
The San Antonio Messiah continues to provide the San Antonio community with high caliber music, the message that Jesus Christ lives and is our Savior, and truly powerful and inspiring performances of Handel's Messiah each Christmas season.
There are many reasons why we started and continue to host community performances of Handel's Messiah, but three main reasons stand out. The number one reason is that the music testifies of Jesus Christ. What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than by experiencing the life of our Savior Jesus Christ through scriptures that have been put to beautiful music?! This is why we perform for free. We want all to be able to partake in the powerful spirit felt through our Messiah performances and to feel the love of Jesus Christ through our music, without having to worry about if they can afford it or not. This is our service to the community.
The second reason is that we want to provide an opportunity for people to grow their talents and participate in high caliber music and in an amazing quality choir and orchestra. Many people have full-time jobs or take care of children all day, and they don't get the opportunity to sing in a large choir or play in an orchestra anymore. By having sectionals and rehearsals for about 6 weeks, we provide an opportunity for both amateurs and professional musicians to grow their talents, learn the music of the Messiah, and come together for a performance that is both excellent in quality and in the beauty of the music.
And third, we want to provide a way for the people of San Antonio to come together as a community to get to know each other, to form new relationships, and to celebrate the commonality we have between us. Even though we all come from many different churches, we have a deep and abiding testimony of Jesus Christ and we love good music. The San Antonio Messiah has been a great community builder for our area.
Charles Jennens, a friend of George
Frideric Handel, sent a collection of scriptural passages to
Handel with the hope that Handel would set the words to
music. On August 22nd, 1741, Handel began writing the
Messiah. As Handel was composing, servants said that he did
not leave his house, allowed no visitors to disturb him,
left all food virtually untouched, and shunned sleep. Handel
finished composing the “Messiah” in just twenty-four days.
“I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great
God himself,” were the words Handel uttered as he was
composing what is universally accepted as the greatest
oratorio of all time. “Whether I was in my body or out of my
body as I wrote it I know not. God knows.” Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart arranged the version of the Messiah which is
traditionally performed today.
When Handel first performed the
Messiah, he persuaded all of the musicians, including
himself, to donate their time and go without pay. The
proceeds of the first ever Messiah performance went to pay
off the debt of 152 inmates in debtors’ prison. The powerful
analogy being that our sins and debts may too be made whole
through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who freely gave his
life and atoned for our sins.
It is said that during the opening notes of the Hallelujah Chorus, King George II rose to his feet. As is customary when a King stands, the audience also stood, thus beginning a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries. Others stand because the Hallelujah Chorus proclaims Christ to be the “King of Kings” and to stand is to show reverence and respect for our true King, the Savior of us all, Jesus Christ.
Susan Slaugh founded the San Antonio Messiah in 2009 and this will be her 11th year as the Messiah conductor. Susan has over 30 years of experience on both the violin and piano. She regularly plays the violin with the Symphony of the Hills and also subs for other symphonies and groups. Susan studied Music Education at both Sam Houston State University and Utah Valley University. She has taught and conducted choirs and orchestras in both private and public schools, church, the San Antonio community, and she teaches violin and piano privately. Susan enjoys composing and arranging music, some of which may be found on her website, www.texansusan.com. Susan is originally from Spring, Texas and currently resides in San Antonio with her husband Mike, and her five children, Cameron, Errolyn, Logan, Emma, and Allie.
Producer: Susan Slaugh
Music Assistant Producer: Maryl Johnson
Admin. Assistant Producer: Kristi Oliveros
Production Secretary: Katy Lorenc
Music Coordinator (HC): Ben Henry
Messiah Conductor: Susan Slaugh
Messiah Pianist: Shelly Craig
Choir Chair: Gabby Hull
Assistant Conductor: Bethany Wiest
Soprano Section Leader: Heather Wickern
Alto Section Leader: Patti Davis
Tenor Section Leader: Glen Mabey
Bass Section Leader: Ben Henry
Pianists: Shelly Craig, LaDawn Reese, Karen Gardner, Sarah McClure
Children's Choir Conductor: Lecia
Youth Choir Conductor: Ian Hornbarger
Audition Chair: Stephanie Cricchio
Advertising & Program Design: Susan Slaugh
Advertising Admin: Stephanie Singer
Web Admin: Susan Slaugh
Performance Admin: Megan Shafer
Technology Specialists: Mark Walker,
Marshall Packard, Jeremy Kathermann
Video Specialists: Kyle Mickelsen & Garrett Lewis
Public Affairs: Andrew Larry