On Sunday, Fili Creative will produce a live stream of The Bethany Oratorio Society’s 2021 Performance of George Frederick Handel’s Messiah. In streaming this event, we will help a nearly one-hundred-and-forty-year tradition live on in the small community of Lindsborg, Kansas.
The Easter Holiday
In the Christian tradition, Easter Sunday is generally agreed to be the most important day of the year. Originally a pagan holiday turned sacred by the scheduling decisions of the Council of Nicaea, Easter is the memorialization of the Sunday Jesus Christ emerged from his tomb and greeted his flabbergasted disciples, mere hours after being crucified by Pontius Pilate. It may surprise the reader that many “good” Christians have routinely spent several hours of this most-important-of-Christian-holidays attending the most secular of events; a concert!
A Biblical Epic
Covering nearly the entire Christian timeline, from Old Testament Prophets predicting the birth of a savior, through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, all the way to the (eventual) final victory over sin and death mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the expansive Messiah was meant to be a definitive work from its composition. It is clear, within Evangelical circles especially, that the most remembered work of George Frederick Handel has achieved near Biblical importance.
Lindsborg and its Bethany College have embraced the music and story of the Messiah with a fervor that has carried on through wars, a depression, and yes, even pandemics. The annual performance has given Lindsborg a great deal of pride and recognition with performers and visitors filling Bethany’s historic Presser Hall for almost a century.
A year ago, for the first time in living memory, the clocklike tradition ground to a halt when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the organizers to postpone the Messiah due to Kansas’s statewide stay-at-home order. Fortunately, later in 2020, the people of the area assembled a small production to stream the concert over the internet to keep the tradition alive.
To look back, over dozens of performances and several lifetimes is to see the semblance of Christ’s story reflected in this tradition. Just as Jesus went through unbelievable hardship in the Bible to fulfill his purpose, the people of the Smoky Valley continue the celebrations of their mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers.
When Presser Hall fills again this Easter Sunday, rest assured that the assemblage will faithfully carry out its ritual duty from first downbeat to final “amen”.