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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Heart of Christmas

Conductor Laureate Alfred Savia returns to helm Evansville Philharmonic’s ‘Messiah’

When the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra gather on Dec. 15 in Trinity United Methodist Church’s sanctuary to perform its annual candlelit performance of composer George Frideric Handel’s 18th-century oratorio “Messiah,” a special guest will be front and center.

Three seasons after ending his 31-year tenure to become the Indianapolis Opera’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Evansville Philharmonic Conductor Laureate Alfred Savia returns to the River City to direct one of his favorite pieces.

The Evansville Philharmonic “is really dear to my heart,” Savia says. “When Kimberly (Bredemeier, the philharmonic’s executive director) asked, I didn’t even hesitate. I said, ‘I’m in. Call my manager, but I’m in.’ I’m just glad to be back.”

“It’s like you’ve raised a child for 30 years,” he adds with a laugh. “You’re not going to say, goodbye! Forget about you!”

“Messiah” was not part of the Philharmonic’s repertoire when Savia began as music director and conductor in 1989.

“I thought, you’re missing the ball. ‘Messiah’ is the piece that is at the heart of the Christmas season,” he says. “We found the most perfect venue in Trinity. It’s one of the best places in the world to present ‘Messiah.’

“I’m so looking forward to working with (chorus director) Andrea Drury, the chorus, the orchestra — there are a lot of new players,” he adds. “To me, this is one of the great traditions of the Christmas season.”

The Indianapolis Opera’s season differs from the Evansville Philharmonic, which runs with near-constant steam from September to May. In Indianapolis, the fall season runs September-November and picks back up January-May for the spring lineup. He also conducts in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s summer season.

“That works out very well for me. It’s a very good balance for me now,” Savia says. “I had 31 years of conducting non-stop from September to May. Now, we can get away.”

Savia and his wife, Kathryn — known as Kitty — have used their increased free time to winter in Florida, visit loved ones in New Jersey and Indiana, and vacation in Hawaii, Italy, and Ireland.

Like many conductors, Savia accepts guest conducting opportunities, such as “Messiah.” Otherwise, he remains an Evansville Philharmonic fan but doesn’t interfere.

“I don’t want to be hovering around,” he says. “When I came back in 2022, the orchestra sounded fabulous. Actually, it sounded better, and that’s all I need to know.”

Editor’s Note: Handel’s Messiah by Candlelight on Dec. 15 in Evansville is sold out.

When You Go
Handel’s Messiah, performed by Evansville Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Conductor Laureate Alfred Savia
7 p.m. (Eastern), Dec. 16, 2023
Saint Joseph Catholic Church
1029 Kundeck St., Jasper, Indiana

Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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