New West Symphony Presents


Performances April 6 and 7, 2024
Thousand Oaks, Camarillo

Eileen Roberts

March 20, 2024

Thousand Oaks, CA – One of history’s most popular and enduring choral works is featured when New West Symphony presents selections from Handel’s “Messiah,” scheduled April 6 and 7 in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.

Four premier American soloists will join forces with the orchestra and the New West Symphony Chorus under the direction of NWS Music Director Michael Christie. At the end of the program, singers and orchestra will be joined by audience members who are invited to bring their scores and sing along to selected sections of the classic oratorio.

I am often asked if there is a piece of music I like to conduct most or could be considered my ‘deserted island’ work,” says Michael Christie, “and the answer is easy: Handel’s ‘Messiah.’ I’ve led this piece dozens of times and, funnily enough, it isn’t the narrative itself that pulls me in so deeply, it is that the music makes me feel the emotions of the observer to the action, whatever that may be. This is Handel’s genius and the wonder of this piece.”

The featured soloists represent some of the finest operatic and recital singing talent in American music: soprano Celena Shafer, alto Melody Wilson, tenor Aaron Crouch and bass John Buffett. All have performed on national and international stages in leading and featured roles of well-known operas and musicals, and are recipients of numerous awards and honors for their work.

The Selection:
The music for “Messiah” was composed in 24 days by George Frideric Handel in 1741, utilizing text based on the King James Bible and Coverdale Salter by Charles Jennens. First performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742, the English-language oratorio is divided into three “acts” or “parts,” each comprised of “scenes” depicting the life of Jesus Christ. The most famous portion of “Messiah,” the “Hallelujah Chorus,” concludes Part II, celebrating God’s ultimate victory following Christ’s resurrection at Easter (and not his birth at Christmas, though “Hallelujah Chorus” is frequently performed at that time).

I marvel, of course, at the speed with which Handel composed this colossal work,” notes Michael Christie. “But I’m truly in awe at how perfectly he considered tempo, rhythm, harmony and text setting to allow us to feel anguish, joy, isolation, achievement and grandeur without fail.”  

The featured soloists are likewise captivated by the grandeur, challenge and message of “Messiah.”

“The drama of ‘Messiah,’ the text and the story are all so powerful,” says alto Melody Wilson. “People are drawn to its music and its message, and that’s why it’s such a moving piece.”

“The fact that we can hope and believe in something so powerful as the Messiah is so meaningful,” says soprano Celena Shafer. “Even for non-believers or different faith believers, the belief in a higher good, that we are all connected in our humanity, should give us all strength and encouragement.”

“I love this piece so much because I get to be two types of tenor: soft and florid singing early, and very energetic singing later,” says tenor Aaron Crouch. “And as a Christian, I appreciate and celebrate the story of the coming of the Messiah, and the excitement of sharing the good news of the Resurrection. That’s always fun to be part of.”

And bass John Buffett, who has sung Handel’s “Messiah” multiple times every year for the past 25, says it never gets old. “Everyone knows what to expect from ‘Messiah,’” he says, “and therein lies the challenge — keeping it sounding new, interesting and full of emotion. And there are so many different tempi, orchestration, tunings and ornaments that it always feels new and fresh to me.”

“Messiah”: Dates & Venues: 

Saturday, April 6, 7 p.m., Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Thousand Oaks.

Sunday, April 7, 3 p.m., Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center, 4235 Mar Vista Dr., Camarillo.

Tickets & Information:
Call (866) 776-8400 or visit

About the New West Symphony:
Now in its 29th season, the New West Symphony draws its players from the rich talent pool of accomplished Los Angeles-area musicians. Following “Messiah,” its 2024 Masterpiece Season continues with:

—“Brahms, Mendelsohn and Ravel,” featuring virtuoso violinist and NWS concertmaster Alyssa Park and the Pacific Festival Ballet (October 5 and 6);

—“New World Symphony,” with acclaimed pianist Lara Downes, named Performance Today’s 2022 “Classical Woman of the Year” (November 2 and 3);

—“A Winter Spectacular and Winterfest” (December 7 and 8). For further information, visit

About New West Symphony Chorus:
Under the direction of Wyant Morton, the acclaimed Areté chamber ensemble, founded in 2009, is in its second season performing as the New West Symphony Chorus. Previously, the Chorus joined the Symphony for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (November 2022) and excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem (April 2023). Morton, a member of the California Lutheran University Music faculty since 1992, has directed the CLU Choral Ensembles for the better part of three decades, including many performances with New West Symphony.

About Michael Christie:
Named Artistic and Music Director of the New West Symphony in December 2018, GRAMMY® Award-winning conductor Michael Christie is a thoughtfully innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience at his performances entertaining, enlightening, and enriching. Deeply committed to bringing new works to life, he has championed commissions by leading and emerging composers alike.

Christie has served as Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony (2005-2013) and Brooklyn Philharmonic (2005-2010), and as Chief Conductor of the Queensland Orchestra (2001-2004) in Australia. He has also guest conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and the Symphonies of Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, Oregon, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Santa Rosa. European engagements have included leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Orchestre National de Lille, Swedish and Netherlands Radio Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, NDR Hannover Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic. Christie also enjoys a strong profile in Australia, where he has conducted the Sydney Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, Opera Queensland, and the Western Australian Symphony in Perth.

For further information, visit and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.