Columbia Chorale lets performers buy their way onto stage

Thursday, December 6, 2007 | 6:15 p.m. CST; updated 12:55 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA ­— While some eBay shoppers are paying close attention to their auctions in hopes of winning an elusive Nintendo Wii for the coming holidays, four Columbians have already competed and won an item even rarer.

For the second year, the nonprofit Columbia Chorale placed the solo performances for its sing-along version of Handel’s “Messiah” on eBay, and all four have been sold.

If you go

What: “Messiah Sing-Along” When: 4 p.m. Sunday Where: Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. Ninth St. Tickets: $5 in advance, $10 at door

Dianna Long, a member of the chorale and an attorney at the Mid-Missouri Bankruptcy Center, spent $75 — her spending limit on the auction — for the alto solo “O thou that tellest” and won. Long said the experience of the sing-along is about encouraging people to let go and use their voices.

“I’m not a great singer. I don’t have a trained voice, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to buy the solo,” Long said. “I want people to understand that this is a sing-along. It’s not a show, and you don’t have to have a perfect or beautiful voice to sing. And if you want to sing, you should get out there and do it.”

Ted Willmore won the soprano solo, “Rejoice,” for $41, but Willmore is not a soprano: He’s a tenor.

“I bid on the tenor and soprano solos this year, trying to see if I could get them on the cheap,” Willmore said. “My plan was to give away the soprano solo.”

And so he did, to MU music student Samantha Smith, who also bid on the solo. Willmore was outbid on the tenor solo — by the chorale’s director, Alex Innecco. “He didn’t know it was me,” Innecco said.

But Willmore will be in the spotlight anyway because Innecco has asked Willmore to conduct while he sings “Every Valley.”

The baritone solo for “The Trumpet Shall Sound” was won by David Orr. Proceeds from selling the solos go to the chorale. This year, the fundraiser has raised about $400, roughly the same as last year. This year fewer solos were auctioned.

Innecco said he cannot deny there is an element of reality TV with the solo performances. Even so, the performance is about fundraising in a way in which people can have fun. Innecco said making people feel relaxed and comfortable enough to sing is the goal.

“The ‘Messiah’ is a piece that is so performed it’s almost like it belongs to everybody,” Innecco said. “I want people to take that ownership of ‘Messiah.’ It’s not Handel’s anymore — it’s kind of everybody’s.”

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