For 30 years, Betta Nash of Tooele has helped lead the orchestra or participated with the Tooele Regional Chorus and Orchestra in performing George Frederick Handel’s “Messiah.”
However, for the next two years, after this production, Nash will be in Berlin, Germany, with Mark, her husband of 46 years, serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nash recalls not participating in “Messiah” one year because she and Mark had church callings and felt she needed to fully invest her time there. But she did watch the Tooele Regional Chorus and Orchestra perform “Messiah” that year and missed it greatly.
“The people are amazing,” Nash said about those who participate with the performance.
The concert is a free gift to anyone who wishes to listen. Nash said it is a large community effort. People aren’t paid to play, practice, sing or perform. They volunteer their time and talents. This year’s “Messiah” will be performed Sunday, Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Grantsville High School Auditorium. It is directed by Pamela Dale.
“It’s great how everyone comes together and practices for three months, for hundreds of hours to provide this free gift,” Nash said.
Helping the orchestra and choir perform “Messiah” was easy for Nash, who got her first taste of performing it in high school in Bismarck, North Dakota. Nash said she was able to play in the Capitol Building there. After being married and while living in Vernal, Utah, Nash played there and then moved to Tooele. Nash was thrilled to be a part of this 34-year tradition not long after it started.
Nash said a stake president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked Elliot Clark, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the time (renamed Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square), to create a Handel’s “Messiah” performance. Nash said between Clark’s family, his wife’s family and their friends, they were able to create a chamber orchestra and pulled off the concert. They continued putting on performances, and by the time Nash joined them, more community members were participating.
“Our aim is to have anyone in the community who wants to be involved,” Nash said.
She said there is no age limit. Currently there are students from high schools participating and some much younger in the orchestra and choir.
“It’s why we have so many soloists,” Nash said. There isn’t simply one vocal soloist for different parts. “We want people to participate.”
“Everyone is my new favorite,” she said when asked which is her favorite production she has participated with or seen. She doesn’t have a favorite; simply each one, new and old, is her favorite performance.
Nash began her music career in the fifth grade in Bismarck, North Dakota. She took a music test and said she was nervous and couldn’t sing loud enough for the band teacher. He declared Nash should play the violin because she didn’t have enough wind in her lungs for a band instrument.
“I thought, OK, I will,” Nash said.
And she did. Nash has also played viola, cello and double bass on occasion. Nash plays violin during “Messiah.” On occasion she has sung with the choir, even singing some solos a few different years.
Nash’s love of music was instilled in her by her mother. Nash said her mother played the piano very well, but loved violin music. Nash’s husband was able to buy her a new violin one year after they were married — a sweet, thoughtful gift, according to Nash. Nash recalls her mother playing Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano while she was in bed. She called Beethoven’s piece her favorite.
Overall, Nash is excited to be serving as a stake young single adult program specialist in Berlin, Germany. She is happy to go to the place where many great, classical composers were born, such as George Frederick Handel.
Nash’s favorite music is classical and loves every bit of Handel’s “Messiah.”
Her reasonings behind loving “Messiah” is fourfold. She loves the music, the testimony of the Savior, the people who participate and help, and how it reinforces for Nash the real meaning of Christmas. She said it almost holds off everything commercialized about the season.
Nash’s position will be given to Barbara Wallace next year while she is in Germany.
“[Everything] always works out,” Nash said about each performance.
The Tooele Regional Choir and Orchestra will also perform parts of Handel’s “Messiah” for Easter, too. Again, it’s free to everyone who wishes to come and enjoy. The director is Pamela Dale.
“Beautiful gift,” Nash said.