The Lake Charles Messiah Chorus and Orchestra will present a Southwest Louisiana holiday tradition with the 79th performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, in historic F.G. Bulber Auditorium at McNeese State University.
The first Messiah was conducted in 1940 by a young Francis G. Bulber, who was inspired to bring local church choirs together along with McNeese students to create this special event. Bulber’s daughter, Colette Bulber Tanner, is the current Messiah director.
This year, eight McNeese students will be featured as soloists: Curry Burton, tenor, Lake Charles; Katie Colby, soprano, Lake Charles; Lara Connally, soprano, Lake Charles; MaryKate Core, mezzo-soprano, Westlake; Kenny Espree, bass, Antioch, Calif.; Rebecca Harris, soprano, Leesville; Isabella Rodriguez, mezzo-soprano, Lumberton, Texas; and Rachel Walls, soprano, El Paso, Texas.
Curry Burton – Burton is a graduate of McNeese with a bachelor’s degree in music. He has performed with the Louisiana Choral Foundation’s Masterworks Chorale and the McNeese Chamber Singers. He also performs with the Cantate Choir for Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church and holds a position on the executive board with Black Market Theatre. He is also radio personality with KBYS McNeese Radio and performs every Tuesday night with his show “90s at Nine.” This will be his fifth year performing as a soloist.
Katie Colby – Colby is a senior music education major. She has been awarded the Lynn F. Hankins and the Groves scholarships and performed the starring role in the McNeese musical theatre production of “The Secret Garden: The Musical.” She also works as minister of music at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church and as a cantor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church. This will be her second year performing as a soloist.
Lara Connally – Connally is a senior vocal performance major. She has performed in KC Productions’ musical “Sweeny Todd” and McNeese Theatre’s productions of “Songs for a New World” and “The Secret Garden: The Musical.” In 2019, she performed at Spotlight on Opera and was a featured musician at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice at New England Conservatory. This is her second year performing as a soloist.
MaryKate Core – Core is a senior vocal performance major. She is a member of the McNeese Chamber Singers, Women’s Ensemble and Opera Workshop. She has appeared in the McNeese Theatre’s productions of “Kiss, Me Kate” and “Songs for a New World.” She is also an assistant director of music at the First United Methodist Church Chancel Choir, directs the Asbury Ringers Handbell Choir and assists with the music program for the Governor’s Program for Gifted Children at McNeese. This is her second year performing as a soloist.
Kenny Espree, Jr. – Espree is a graduate of McNeese with a bachelor’s degree in music. At McNeese, he was a member of the Chamber Singers and Men’s Ensemble. Currently, he is the music teacher, Kodály specialist and choir leader at Vinton Elementary and Cypress Cove Elementary schools. For the 2019-2020 school year, he was named “Teacher of the Year” at Cypress Cove. This is his third year performing as a soloist.
Rebecca Harris – Harris is a junior music education major and a member of the McNeese Chamber Singers. She teaches a Music Together class at the We Rock the Spectrum kids gym and participates in the First Baptist Church of Longville choir. This is her first year performing as a soloist.
Isabella Rodriguez – Rodriguez is a junior music education major. She is the vice president of the McNeese Chamber Singers, serves as sergeant-in-arms for the international music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota and is a member of the McNeese Women’s Ensemble and the Student National Association of Teachers of Singing. She is also a member of the St. Michael’s Episcopal Church choir. This is her first year performing as a soloist.
Rachel Walls – Walls is a junior music education major. She serves as a worship leader for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. This is her first year performing as a soloist.