‘Messiah,’ a gift to community

LOS ALTOS, Calif. — Overwhelmed at the sight of almost 600 participants on their feet to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus," Sandra Koelzer came to realize the influence a community sing-along of Handel's "Messiah" can have.

"The Lord helped us in so many ways to present "Messiah: A Sing-Along Performance," said Sister Koelzer, a soloist as well as a director of many Bay Area choirs for more than 20 years. "It was a dream come true."

Aware of the musical talents of her fellow Sunnyvale Ward members in the Los Altos California Stake, Sister Koelzer, a seasoned choral director, wanted to do a "Messiah" performance as a gift to the community.

"For many years, I could see in my mind's eye the chapel and cultural hall filled with people listening to and singing it," she said.

This year, under the sponsorship of Sunnyvale Ward's high priests group and as a climax to National Family Week, Nov. 19-25, 35 orchestra members participated in the fourth annual production Nov. 26. Included were principal instrumentalists and members of the San Jose Symphony, San Jose State University students, high school students, teachers and home-schooled students; participants ranged in age from 12 to 78. Fifteen were not members of the Church.

Co-producer Eberhard Waiblinger, a Mountain View resident, said, "I had been looking forward to directing the orchestra, and was delighted when a stream of community members wanted to join us."

Kristine Ashton, a co-producer in charge of public relations, publicized the event to members of the Church, as well as to the communities in areas of the Menlo Park, Los Altos and Saratoga stakes.

The Sunnyvale Ward supported the event. The Relief Society planned its November activity around it by providing hostesses, decorations and refreshments for the reception following the performance. Ward priesthood quorums helped with facilities during rehearsals and the performance. The Primary developed an Achievement Day activity, "Hands on Handel," so the youngsters could learn of the composer and his music, hear and see live musicians play, and touch musical instruments.

Of the approximately 600 who attended, it is estimated that 265 were members of other churches.