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Draper Journal

Draper City Messiah celebrates 40 years of performing Handel’s masterwork

Nov 21, 2018 11:05AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Layne Wright conducts the Draper City Messiah. (Photo courtesy Sam Wright/Draper City Messiah)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

Folks tend to get emotional when they talk about their involvement in Draper City Messiah.  “It was the start of the season for me,” said singer Robyn Price. “It puts Christ at the center of Christmas.” Choir president Steve Peterson said, “There’s nothing that stirs my soul like that music.” For 40 years now, singers and musicians from the community have come together to perform George Frideric Handel’s iconic oratorio at the Corner Canyon Stake Center (1300 East 13400 South).    

Handel’s “Messiah” is arguably one of the most beloved classical pieces of the Christmas season in the United States. It premiered at the Musick Hall in Dublin, Ireland in time for Easter in April of 1742. Since then, Handel’s “Messiah,” with its soaring melodies and uplifting message, has been performed and celebrated the world over. It has a special place in the hearts of many Utahns.  

Draper City Messiah founder Layne Wright first invited members of the community to perform the Messiah with his musical family back in 1978, one year after moving to Draper. His son, Sam Wright, said his father had dreamed of starting a community choir since boyhood.  

Layne Wright and his wife Marian have 12 children and all learned to sing and play various musical instruments. Over the years, all have participated in the annual Messiah performance in one capacity or another. “It is something that brings us all together,” said Sam. When Layne accepted the position of mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Brazil in 2012, his son John took over as director.  

Currently, Layne and Marian are serving a mission in New Zealand and will have to miss the 40th anniversary performance. They will return to Draper in 2019.

Sam noted that the Draper City Messiah has attracted singers and musicians of all different faiths over the years, including folks who do not follow a particular religion.  “Whether you believe in God or not, people are moved by the power of the music,” he said.  

Since its humble beginning 40 years ago, the choir and orchestra for Draper City Messiah has grown significantly. In 2017 there were 140 singers and 35 members of the orchestra.  “We have community participants who have been there since the beginning,” said Sam.  Generations of families have sung in the choir. “My mom sang in it when I was a kid,” said Price. “It was a family tradition for years.”  

Choir president Steve Peterson has been a part of Draper City Messiah since 1996. He organizes rehearsals and gives audiences a brief introduction to Handel. “None of us are professionals,” he said. “But the quality of the performance is absolutely amazing. It is a labor of love for everybody involved and something that we greatly look forward to every year.”   

There will be a Draper Messiah Sing-in on November 25 at 7:00 p.m. All members of the community are invited to come as they are and sing along. In celebration of the 40th anniversary, some longtime members of the choir who have been absent in recent years will be coming back to perform the solos. Audience participants should bring their own music to this event.  

The 40th annual Draper City Messiah performance will be held on Sunday, December 9 at 7 p.m. There will be no audience participation at this performance. Both the sing-in and 40th anniversary performance will be held at the Corner Canyon Stake Center at 1300 East 13400 South in Draper. Admission is free.