Student Musicians Spark a Season of Joy and Hope

By Karen Lunde

The Washington Center and Minnaert Center stages will ring with the sounds of orchestras and choirs this weekend as Olympia’s student musicians take the stage. One will deliver a beloved holiday tradition, and the other a program centered around the universal theme of hope.

On Friday, December 6, the Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia (SOGO) kicks off the musical weekend with its Community Messiah Sing-Along. “Handel’s Messiah is a long-standing tradition in many communities throughout the entire world,” said Krina Allison, Executive Director of SOGO. “We’re thankful to be able to co-host this event with The Washington Center for the Performing Arts—a beautiful setting for a magnificent, inspired, and inspiring work.”

The audience is invited to sing along with Handel’s Messiah. Even if you’re the sort of person who has only ever belted out the famous Hallelujah Chorus in the car, SOGO invites you to borrow or purchase a score (supplies are limited) and join in this time-honored celebration of music and song.

“The singing and orchestra absolutely fill the concert hall,” said Allison. “It’s easy for the orchestra to hear the chorus in the audience. There’s so much energy in the sing-along that it is difficult to not be impressed with every performance.”

Cameron May, SOGO’s Music Director, will lead the performance and sing-along. SOGO alumni Lauren Zinke (soprano), Olympia native Brianna Kramer (mezzo-soprano), Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s Music Director Dan Colgan (tenor), and Griffin School teacher James Alviar (baritone) will be the featured soloists.

“When SOGO first started in 2000, we wanted to give back to the community for all of their support of the young musicians,” said Allison. “That was when we decided to host a Messiah sing-along, and that the admission would be free.” Performances were originally held in local churches, but the event outgrew those venues and is now co-hosted with the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

When you attend the sing-along, here’s a pro tip—don’t forget to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus! Although no one knows exactly why, standing for the chorus is a tradition. Legend says that King George II was so stirred when he first heard the Hallelujah Chorus that he rose to his feet, which dictated that everyone in his presence should also stand. But that story’s more likely myth than fact.

On Saturday, December 7, a student performance of another sort will fill the SPSCC’s Minnaert Center with glorious sound as the South Puget Sound Community College choirs and orchestra present their concert, Hope Is Kindled.

Dr. John Guarente, Professor of Music, will lead the SPSCC Chamber Singers and SPSCC Percival Choir, and Professor of Music Cameron May will conduct the SPSCC Symphony Orchestra. The program will include music by Barber, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Ticheli, and others, and will conclude with a combined performance of Dvorak’s Te Deum, featuring soprano soloist Cyndia Sieden.

Guarente explained that the concert title, Hope Is Kindled, comes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. “Gandalf speaks this phrase after the beacons of hope are lit at a moment when their situation is most dire,” he said. “Much of our program has to do with finding hope in the face of adversity or tragedy. For example, the SPSCC Symphony Orchestra will be performing An American Elegy by Frank Ticheli, which was written in the wake of the Columbine shooting. The piece is, of course, appropriately mournful, but also shimmers with an air of resilience, quoting the Columbine High School Alma Mater, written by the composer. The SPSCC Chamber Singers will perform songs having to with the tenuous condition of our earth and the environment, but these pieces are surrounded by works that speak to the immutable power of hope, dreams, and love.”

Although the concert isn’t specifically themed around the holiday season, Guarante said that Felix Mendelssohn’s There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob, performed by the SPSCC Percival Choir, is an advent anthem. Samuel Barber’s Sure On This Shining Night continues the theme of following the stars in the winter night sky. “Although we don’t sing about Christmas explicitly,” he said, “these works do hint at the coming holiday season through a lens of premonition and hope.”

The SPSCC Choirs are currently recruiting new singers for their upcoming season. “Our winter quarter concert—March 20—is entitled Irish Coffee, and it will feature a delicious blend of pieces by Irish and Canadian composers and poets,” said Guarante.


SPSCC Choirs and Orchestra: Hope Is Kindled


7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 7


Kenneth J. Minnaert Center Main Stage

2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia


$6-11 | Free to SPSCC students, faculty, and staff


SPSCC Choir Concert

(360) 753-8586



Community Messiah Sing-Along


7:00 p.m. Friday, December 6


The Washington Center for the Performing Arts

512 Washington St. SE, Olympia




Washington Center Community Messiah

(360) 753-8586

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