"Messiah" Choir returns after Christmas miracle

For over a decade, the annual Handel's "Messiah" Interfaith Community Choir has been seeking to bring the joy and beauty of Christmas to Green River. This year's performance will have even more meaning than normal, however, as just the presence of Director Nancy Stevens is its own Christmas miracle.

Four days after last year's "Messiah" performance, Stevens was driving near Pinedale when she and her husband got into a head-on vehicle collision. Another driver pulled out in front of them from behind a truck, hitting them before they had time to react.

"It was pretty horrific," Stevens admitted.

After being put on a plane out of Pinedale, Stevens spent one month in the hospital, two months in rehabilitation, and the rest of the year up to the present in physical therapy.

When she directs the choir again, it will be days from the one-year anniversary of the accident. Those in the community who knew of her accident have been wondering if this year's performance would still be possible.

"People have been asking if Nancy's able to do this this year," Bonnie Arnold, the other director and founder of the choir, explained. "And she's saying 'heck yeah.'"

Stevens noted that she'll have to do some things differently this year, like possibly sitting on a stool during practices, but she still plans to lead like normal. She is still working on her recovery, pointing out that even her singing voice was affected as she has less strength and power to sing with now, which is something she'll continue to work on.

"Her voice is still beautiful," Arnold added. "She has such a beautiful teaching voice."

Stevens is also still working on the recovery of her left hand, but said that her right hand "can direct just fine."

"Nancy's a performer, so she knows the show must go on," Arnold said with a laugh.

While both Arnold and Stevens find ways to laugh about the situation, they are also filled with emotion as they realize how miraculous and special it is for Stevens to be here and be able to direct the choir again this year.

Both of the women who helped put the choir together 13 years ago are also thankful for the opportunity to continue presenting it to the community and for all that it means.

"It really is a spectacular event," Stevens said. "The spirit is really cool. It's really great for Christmas - it just gets you in the mood."

"It's so rich. It's so sweet," Arnold said of the performance. "You would think on a winter's night people who just hurry and go home, but everyone just lingers and talks afterwards."

The performance includes a Christmas carol sing-along, performances of current songs, and the performance of a shortened cantata-style version of Handel's "Messiah." Last year they had a 60-voice choir at least, according to Stevens, and the choir is usually full of both people who've been doing it for a long time and new members.

"And the quality is superior," Arnold added.

The choir is also truly an "all-faith" choir as it is described, Arnold said, with members from all different faiths and different pastors who given opening and closing prayers during the event.

"It's just a really neat environment," she said.

This year's performance will also be special as Arnold and Stevens wanted to use it to find ways to give back to the community.

"In the spirit of the first 'Messiah' presentation in 1742 - it was done for charity, it was a way to help the poor, and so we have a separate committee who will be accepting food for the food bank," Arnolds explained.

Those who attend are encouraged to bring food, canned goods and nonperishables to be donated to the Food Bank of Sweetwater County. However, donations are not required, and admission to the performance is free.

"If people can't bring anything, please still come," Arnolds said.

This year's "Messiah" performance will be at 7 p.m. on Sunday, December 10 at the LDS Stake Center at 120 Shoshone Avenue.

Those interested in joining the choir can show up to practice at the Stake Center. Practices will be held the next four Sundays before the performance. Practice times are 5 p.m. on November 12, 19 and 26 and 7:15 p.m. on December 3. Practices range from 90 minutes to two hours, and music will be provided.


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