‘Messiah’ community sing fits Stage on Main’s mission

  • Stage on Main is holding a community singing event of Handel’s “Messiah” this Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

  • Stage on Main is holding a community singing event of Handel's "Messiah" this Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

  • A community sing of Handel's "Messiah" will be held this Sunday at the Central Congregational Church of Orange, 93 South Main St. Doors open at 2 p.m. and the performance begins at 3 p.m. All are invited to participate for free. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2019 6:47:47 AM
Modified: 12/13/2019 6:47:35 AM

ORANGE — What a perfect time to perform “Messiah.”

Stage on Main, a volunteer-driven, donation-based project to bring arts and entertainment to the North Quabbin region, will be holding its largest program yet this Sunday, Dec. 15, with the community invited to join in a performance of the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah.”

And to organizers, this program represents Stage on Main’s growth and acceptance as a place that has offered free art galleries, performances, game nights and theater since opening in March.

Doors open 2 p.m. at the Central Congregational Church of Orange, 93 South Main St., with the performance starting 3 p.m.

The event is free and is taking a “community sing” format. Soloist singers and musicians will perform, but organizers are encouraging anyone who would like to participate. People may bring their instruments as well. Books with lyrics will be available at the church, and those that have copies of Handel’s “Messiah” may bring their own.

“It’s a wonderful place that will give people a chance to show their talent,” said organizer Candi Fetzer. “There’s no training required. If you like to sing and want to sing, come.”

Fetzer herself is a trained opera singer, who majored in the art during college. She says the event Sunday should be a fun mix of people who have “performed all over” and people who just casually like to sing or play instruments.

And that’s the point of Stage on Main, Fetzer said, it’s for everyone.

Stage on Main first opened at 17 South Main St. — just a short distance from the church, where Sunday’s event is — in March, offering a performance of the off-Broadway “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” as its premiere event.

Since then, Stage on Main has served as an art gallery, theater and speaking venue — even a makeshift tea house — for the wider North Quabbin region.

“We wanted to have more fun in our lives,” said Fetzer, who has lived in the area for a little over a decade after moving from Cincinnati, Ohio.

“We didn’t know where to find it other than outside of the Orange-Athol area,” Fetzer added.

She recalled that Stage on Main was born out of residents’ desire to be able to attend performances and art galleries without having to travel.

A group of locals, including Fetzer’s partner Denise Andrews, “raided attics and basements until we found we could open a performance space” — the building ultimately chosen is privately owned by a family that has decided to allow the space to be used for the benefit of the community, Fetzer said.

The effort is completely volunteer-driven, and supported by organizations like the Orange Revitalization Partnership, a nonprofit founded in 1994 to promote aesthetic and economic development of the downtown area.

“We’re getting a lot of people that are talking about us now,” Fetzer said. “It gives people in our area a chance to not have to go to other places.”

Stage on Main fills a void in Orange, both in terms of entertainment and in terms of literally occupying one of the town’s many empty buildings, Fetzer said. And an important part of Stage on Main’s programming is that it’s free.

“Our primary goal is to have a place where parents don’t ever have to tell their children, ‘We can’t do that today. I don’t have the money,’” Fetzer said.

Also, she said, Stage on Main is not only for those seeking entertainment, but those providing it.

Several visiting musicians and artists are experienced entertainers, like the North Quabbin’s Richard Chase, who performed a Cinco de Mayo concert at Stage on Main this year, but others are just starting out. Fetzer said one example is local photographer Mel Murphy, who showed her photography for the first time last month at Stage on Main.

Stage on Main will open frequently throughout the holiday season on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, offering an art gallery, local marketplace and lending library. Events are usually scheduled on the third Thursday and third Sunday of each month, including game nights, karaoke nights, movie nights and artist openings.

Other events are scheduled each month, including Latin dance lessons on Tuesdays beginning in January. For a detailed and specific listing of events, visit Stage on Main’s frequently updated Facebook page, www.facebook.com/stageonmain/.

“Messiah” is a lengthy English-language oratorio composed by George Frideric Handel in 1741. The 53-movement piece details the life of Jesus Christ. Part I is often known as the “Christmas portion,” because it deals with Jesus’ birth. The Christmas portion can take around an hour to perform.

The piece was chosen, Fetzer said, “because it’s my favorite,” represents the Christmas season and is a beautiful weaving of vocals and instrumentation.

“What a better time to perform the Messiah than now?” she said. “All the music is gorgeous and it’s just fun to sing. It talks about the birth and all the things that happened to Jesus Christ. . . . I’ve asked myself, ‘Why do I like this? Why am I doing this?’ It’s just beautiful.”

Conducting will be Dr. Charles Heffernan of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The event is free, but donations are accepted and will go toward future Stage on Main projects. Those who attend Sunday are also encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to donate to the Orange Food Bank.

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