There was childlike anticipation and wonder in the air as friends and neighbors found their seats inside Faneuil Hall’s Great Hall, awaiting the start of our fifth annual holiday concert. Last Wednesday, we co-presented Handel’s Messiah Part the First and the Hallelujah Chorus with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, bringing the joy of the holiday season to life through music and song.

Year after year, it’s a pleasure to partner with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra to put on this holiday spectacular. Our organizations share a deep commitment to fostering accessibility through the arts.

For those of you who don’t know, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, conducted by the masterful Christopher Wilkins, performs in nontraditional performance venues to connect all Bostonians—regardless of age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status—to the arts. The orchestra also creates opportunities for differently-abled people to enjoy symphonic music through its ambassador, Braille, large-print and text-to-speech programs.

In keeping with our shared values of accessibility and inclusivity, we and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra put on our annual holiday concert at Faneuil Hall’s Great Hall, a nontraditional performance venue. The majestic hall’s prime location in the city—mere minutes away from our North End headquarters—combined with its seating capacity empowered us to bring the transformative quality of the arts to hundreds of community members.

Over 275 years ago, the Great Hall housed Revolutionary-era meetings,” said Sherri Snow, executive director at NEMPAC. “Today, the Great Hall serves as a nontraditional performance venue for several Boston arts organizations and has become a second home for NEMPAC’s professional performance programming. The hall’s original paintings, sculptures, and wooden folding chairs traverse patrons back to the Revolutionary-era, and the historical significance of the space invites awe, respect, and reverence for the arts.”

This reverence for the arts was on full display when our youth choir, under the direction of choirmaster Alexandra Dietrich, opened the performance with a festive prelude. As these 12 youth vocalists performed Pastores á Belén and Night of Silence, what struck us most was the way they worked together to sing in one voice. They glowed with an angel-like light, reminding our professional musicians how truly special it was when they themselves were young artists, taking the stage for the first time to share their artistic gifts with others.

Here at our music school, our faculty members whole-heartedly believe in creating opportunities for rising artists to take the stage alongside professional performers. The holiday concert put this belief into action, showcasing intergenerational performances. In fact, our youth choir performed the final song of the prelude, Baroque Christmas Festival, together with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

Ethan DePuy, faculty member at NEMPAC, commented on how the annual holiday concert empowers professional musicians to pass on musical traditions to the next generation of artists.

It’s awesome to see we have students at NEMPAC who are capable of getting up on stage and rocking it with these great musicians. I’m very proud of them, and I’m happy they have this experience to perform. It’s some of the greatest music on Earth, and it’s cool to pass it on to students who are performing this music for the first time.”

After the prelude, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra’s One City Choir took the stage and began their performance of Handel’s Messiah Part the First. This symphonic choir unites vocalists from over 30 greater-Boston communities—from Amherst to Brookline to Peabody—in song.

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra and the One City Choir gave a transcendent performance alongside four local artists:

There were so many moments throughout the holiday spectacular that took our breath away. The push and pull of the strings in Pifa. The call of the French horn in the choir loft during Glory to God. The tenor’s masterful play with crescendos and decrescendos in Comfort Ye. The musicians and vocalists created such a layered sound, and the notes seemed to melt into one another in a performance that was as hopeful as it was healing.

But perhaps the most special moment of all was when our youth choir joined the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and the One City Choir onstage to perform the Hallelujah Chorus. At the end of the song, Maestro Christopher Wilkins invited audience members to get on their feet to take part in an encore performance of this quintessential holiday song.

Snow said, “One of my favorite parts of this program is hearing our NEMPAC Youth Choir open the program with a prelude and then join the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, featured soloists, and One City Choir for the rousing Hallelujah Chorus. When the chorus repeats the finale and the audience stands to join in song, that moment showcases the genuine collaboration between audiences and artists.”

This collaborative spirit was on full display as friends and neighbors from all walks of life sang the Hallelujah Chorus in a beautiful demonstration of audience participation. After all, at NEMPAC we believe we are all musicians and performers.

📷 Photo credit Matt Conti (