16 Dec

The Kennedy Center a living memorial in the Nations Capitol has continued an annual Christmas family tradition of a HANDELS MESSIAH SING-A-LONG for over 30 years. Choirs with more than two voices each of alto, soprano, tenor and bass have performed this Christmas annual. People come from as far as 1500 miles away being lining up for tickets as early as 2:00pm in the afternoon for the event that begins at 8:00pm. Only 2000 are handed out. People who arrive late to line up risk being turned away. Some guests arrive with Handel Messiah songbooks from the earliest of KennedyCenter performances in hand.


The first performance of Handels Messiah was in Dublin 1742. A small orchestra accompanying thirty or so singers presented George Frideric’s Messiah. By the time it was performed in 1883 at LondonsCrystalPalace, over 87000 audience members were entertained by over 4000 singers and instrumentalists. The Kennedy Centers Messiah-Sing-A-Long began 1971, 41 years ago, in the Kennedy Centers first season. The Kennedy Centers executive director asked choral conductor Norman Scribner to create for the Kennedy Center a December Holiday Festival. Scribner came up with the idea of 12 days of Christmas for the public with a free Messiah-Sing-In as a main event. William S Hunt Jr, a local choral director, was invited to conduct the sing in and be its Master of Ceremonies. Soloists were invited. Choral singing was led by volunteer chorus. The Musicians Performance Trust Fund of the Recording Industries fundraised for an orchestra of professional musicians alongside the DC Federation of Musicians and Local 161-70. All the audience had to do was arrive on time, bring their own scores and sing when the on stage chorus sang.


History says the first Messiah-Sing-In was a romp. Hunt stepped on to the stage. His orchestra played their overture. The tenor soloist sang “Comfort ye my people saith your God.” And when it was time, Hunt turned to his audience asking them to tune in to his own stage chorus. When the audience was ready, Hunt led them through to their rousing chorus of HALLELUJAH. Scribner changed the Messiah-Sing-In second year format. Several conductors were invited to direct a few arias.  Scribner’s Paul Hill Chorale sat on stage as the choir. Martin Feinstein brought out a surprise conductor. Feinstein conducted until he died in 2006. A few years after the choral event began, the audience ticket request outgrew the 2500 available seats. For a time, standing room was allowed. After a time, SRO was done away with, citing safety concerns. 50 audience members hoped to join the chorus on stage. KennedyCenter sales staff handed out the tickets. As the popularity of the event grew, ticket seekers became more aggressive to get tickets going so far as to camp out in sleeping bags, bring food, games, books to make the time fly. The Kennedy Center has come under fire for changing seating from open seating to assigned seating separating friends who come together same time each year to sing together.

The Honorary Chairs of the Board of Trustees are the current First Lady and her living predecessors. Ppoints 36 general trustees for 6 year terms.The President Members of the Kennedy Center Board are specified in 20 USA 76h. Ex officio members inclide the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Librarian of Congress, the Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Superintendent of Schools of the District of Columbia, the director of the National Park The Kennedy Center receives Federal Funding. The Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts maintain ace and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

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