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The History and Mission of GCMC

December 1952 marked the beginning of what has become a musical tradition for thousands of people along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi: the annual performance of George Frideric Handel’s marvelous oratorio, Messiah. Under the direction of Glen Draper, the first performance at Keesler Air Force Base began a 65-year history of performances by musicians from both the military and civilian communities. The thousands who enjoy this masterpiece of Handel’s genius year after year are a living tribute to those who have made it possible through dedication and hard work.

Again this year the presentation of selections from Messiah will touch the communities of the Gulf Coast with three performances in the fall and two in the spring to make Handel’s masterpiece easily accessible. Singers in this chorus, as well as all soloists, are volunteers who love to share their vocal talents and enjoy singing this demanding music, Messiah. It is exciting to sing in such a group and we know the power of Handel's music to enrich the lives of the singers and our audiences. What began so simply at Keesler sixty-five years ago continues to be an inspiration to those who visit or make their homes in southern Mississippi.

The primary purpose of the Chorus shall be to offer free of charge one or more performances of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah, or selections thereof, each year for the enjoyment and inspiration of the citizens of and visitors to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Performances of other compositions may be added as determined by the Board of Directors.

George Frideric Handel and Messiah

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) began work on Messiah on August 22, 1741, using a text by Charles Jennens. The words had been adapted from Holy Scripture. On the 14th of September, Handel penned the final touches on a score which was destined to be a reminder of his greatness. Composed in 24 days, this has been a great source of amazement to music lovers for more than two centuries.

Messiah was first performed in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742, with Handel himself conducting. A remarkable thing occurred at that performance. During the Hallelujah Chorus the audience, which included the King himself, was so moved that all stood spontaneously. Thus, the tradition of standing during this chorus began. The following year, the work received its premiere in England.