Press Releases

National Philharmonic Presents Handel’s Messiah

November 21, 2022

National Philharmonic



Featuring a cast of outstanding African American vocal soloists
and the National Philharmonic Chorale

 Proceeds from the performances in Maryland will support
the historic
Scotland African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

December 17 and December 18 at Strathmore

December 23 at Capital One Hall

(NORTH BETHESDA, MD) — National Philharmonic (NatPhil) presents three performances of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, aimed at bringing renewed social relevance, commentary, and philanthropy to an annual holiday tradition. Conducted by Stan Engebretson, the program features a stellar cast of African American singers alongside the National Philharmonic Chorale. In the spirit of the season, 50 percent of the proceeds from this year’s performances at Strathmore will go toward the 2nd Century Project to raise funds for the restoration of the historic Scotland African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church. NatPhil’s Messiah takes place on Saturday, December 17 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m. at Strathmore and on Friday, December 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Capital One Hall. Tickets are currently on sale at

One of the best-known choral works, Messiah, HWV 56 was written by Handel in 1741 as an Easter offering, with English-language text compiled by arts patron and friend Charles Jennens. The oratorio features an instrumentation characteristic of baroque ensembles—including strings, oboes, trumpets, timpani, and basso continuo—as well as a choir and four vocal soloists. Following Handel’s death in 1759, the work has been adapted to feature sizable orchestras and choruses, and it has become a staple of the Christmas season. NatPhil continues this tradition with three holiday performances, featuring the National Philharmonic Chorale and Orchestra under the baton of Stan Engebretson. The choral and orchestral mass will be joined by four soloists: soprano Kearstin Piper Brown, mezzo soprano Lucia Bradford, tenor Norman Shankle, and baritone Jorell Williams.

Messiah received its first performance in 1742 at the Fishamble Street Music Hall in Dublin, Ireland, earning high praise from those in attendance. The premiere also served as a charitable vehicle, supporting two hospitals and a prison in the city. Building on this history, NatPhil will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from its performances at Strathmore to the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church in Potomac, Maryland. The church has been a center of community for Black congregants since 1924, but its structure was nearly destroyed and left unusable by a flood in 2019. To save its rich legacy, the church and its Montgomery County allieshave launched a multi-phase project to repair, restore, and safeguard the building. Information about the 2nd Century Project can be found at

In addition, NatPhil will welcome the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Mass Choir and its director Michael Terry for a pre-concert set on all Strathmore dates. Patrons are encouraged to attend this free performance, which will start one hour prior to the Messiah in the orchestra lobby.

The upcoming performances also provide an opportunity to research, reflect on, and educate audiences about the history of Messiah’s composer. An area of focus will be the recent scholarship uncovering Handel’s link to the slave economy through his own financial investments and by accepting donations from investors in the Royal African Company. To explore these complicated topics, NatPhil will partner with the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA) to present Hidden Handel, a seminar at the CAAPA Cultural Center on Wednesday, December 14 at 11 a.m. This panel discussion with talk-back aims to shed light on the lives of artists within their historical context, and to acknowledge the conflicts that exist between art and artists to this day. Additional education opportunities surrounding Handel will also be explored through NatPhil’s Harmonic Justice series, which highlights the intersection of racial equity and classical music.

“We are overjoyed to bring back Messiah—our most popular event each season—and to reach more people in the DMV area by presenting the program at two locations,” said National Philharmonic Music Director Piotr Gajewski. “Several aspects will make these performances even more meaningful than in years past: our fantastic cast of vocal soloists, whom we’re thrilled to showcase; our effort to raise awareness of, and much-needed support for, the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church; and our learning and engagement activities to educate audiences about the complicated history behind Handel. All of these comprise what I deem to be an appropriate response to the programming of Handel’s masterpiece, and one that we aim to thoughtfully design and bring to our community for seasons to come.”

Full Concert Details:

Saturday, December 17, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore

Sunday, December 18, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore

Friday, December 23, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. at Capital One Hall

Handel’s Messiah

Stan Engebretson, conductor

            with the National Philharmonic Chorale

Kearstin Piper Brown, soprano

Lucia Bradford, mezzo soprano

Norman Shankle, tenor

Jorell Williams, baritone

Hallelujah! It’s time for to mark the most wonderful time of the year with Handel’s Messiah. Messiah is a time-honored tradition that offers the occasion for community to come together and embrace the comfort and joy this holiday classic unfailingly brings every year. We hope your family will join our National Philharmonic family in celebration. Tis the season!


George Frideric Handel, Messiah, HWV 56 (with intermission)



National Philharmonic is grateful for the very generous support of Ruppert Landscape and Just Ice Tea, among other organizations, who are making this collaboration with the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church possible.


Ticket Information

Tickets ($19–$99) are available online at Kids 17 and under can attend National Philharmonic performances for free through the All Kids. All Free. All the Time. initiative.


Health and Safety Protocols

Patrons are no longer asked to show proof of vaccination to enter our venues, but we encourage everyone to stay up to date on their COVID vaccinations and boosters.

At this time, patrons are encouraged to wear masks in the venue and through the duration of NatPhil performances. The mask policy may vary by performance. For the safety of our NatPhil family, please stay home if you feel sick or present any of the symptoms of COVID-19.

For the latest safety protocols, please visit


About the Soloists

Kearstin Piper Brown, soprano

Lucia Bradford, mezzo soprano

Norman Shankle, tenor

Jorell Williams, baritone


About the National Philharmonic

Celebrated for showcasing world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces, National Philharmoniccontinuously strives to create remarkable educational opportunities in the community while promoting diversity and representation in classical music.

National Philharmonic is an accessible, enriching component in the Greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area, believing that music has the power to spark imagination and shape the world around us. As the only organization with a united orchestra and chorus in the region, over the years National Philharmonic has expanded its footprint beyond its home at Strathmore, with year-round masterclasses along with Summer String and Summer Chorale Institutes for youth, armed services programs, and partnerships with community organizations. In addition to these programs, National Philharmonic fosters a love of music in young people across the region by offering free admission to all children between the ages 7 to 17 years old.


About the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church
The Scotland African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church was built by hand and opened in 1924 by Black congregants in Potomac. Registered as a State Historic Site by the Maryland Historical Trust, today the church is the only historic building to survive in the Scotland community. It is a site of struggle, triumph, and resiliency that deserves to be celebrated and supported.

The original wood-frame structure, one of the last of its kind in the region, was nearly destroyed by a flood in the summer of 2019 and has suffered subsequent damage due to intense tropical storms over the past few years.  These storms damaged the foundation of the church and collapse of the entire structure is imminent without your support.

Today, the members of the Scotland A.M.E. Zion Church and its allies in Montgomery County have launched the 2nd Century Project, a three-phase plan to rescue the building. They want to repair it, safeguard it against floods, and expand it to serve the future needs of the congregation and the wider community.

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Media Contact:

Camille Cintrón Devlin

(571) 317-9317

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