Michigan Festival of Sacred Music

Michael Palmer

The Messiah Sing, a community sing-along of highlights from Handel's oratorio, has been an annual event in Kalamazoo for over 20 years. First Congregational Church music director Michael Palmer is leading the sing for the third time. Each year, he re-thinks which portions to sing, and how. For example, this year he's decided to turn over some of the most famous solo songs into unison section singing.

One of Michigan's most experienced early music performers, Eric Strand, will return as harpsichordist. He says  it was the Americans, and not the British, who came up with the sing-along tradition of performing the Messiah. Palmer, Strand, and new section leader for the altos, Tami Snyder-Knutson talk with Cara Lieurance about what makes singing Handel's Messiah such a rewarding experience.


In a preview of the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music, executive director Elizabeth Start explains the reasons behind turning the festival into an annual event, and previews the eleven performances scheduled between October 29 and Nov 3. They include appearances by a gamelan orchestra, a trio of Syrian musicians, a Jewish-bluegrass fusion band, and the choral group The Rose Ensemble


courtesy of the DIO Trio

Syria has been in the news since war broke out there roughly five years ago. While the conflict was once a distant thought in many Americans’ minds, the reality of the war is sinking in as Syrians seek asylum in the United States. Last month, 12 refugee families relocated to Kalamazoo. Unfortunately for some Americans, the war is all they know of Syria, but members of the Syrian-American group the DIO Trio hope to change that.


Fir0002/Flagstaffotos (Wikimedia Commons)

Western Michigan University alumna Kitsie Emerson was pursuing an advanced degree in piano at Queens College, and she was becoming miserable. In a city crowded with hungry pianists, she had been confined to her tiny apartment for months, practicing. So, for a change of pace (and to satisfy a degree requirement), she signed up for lessons on a few non-western instruments. One was the gamelan.


Simon Shaheen is a virtuoso oud and violin player with the ability to perform in both the traditional Arabic and western classical styles. He's also the founder of a yearly retreat for musicians, young and old, who want to learn the basics of Arabic music on almost any instrument. Prior to his November 12th appearance at the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music, he spoke about his early love of both Arabic and European styles, and how he brought both together for his Grammy-nominated album, Blue Flame.


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