When Handel reigned supreme at Knoxville College

Jay FitzDowntown, Our Town Stories

For over 50 years, hundreds of people gathered at the McMillan Memorial Chapel at Knoxville College to attend the annual presentation of George Fredric Handel’s Messiah by the Knoxville College Coleridge-Taylor Chorus.

The tradition began Dec. 17, 1933, when the director of Knoxville College’s voice department, Newell Coleridge Fitzpatrick, directed the chorus in their presentation of Handel’s Messiah featuring soloists Mattie Bell Hall (soprano), Arnette Gravely (contralto), and Eugene Brice (tenor). Accompanists were Pearl Henderson and Marcellus Saunders. 

The Coleridge-Taylor Chorus began as the Coleridge-Taylor Choral Club at Knoxville College in 1914. The choir was named after famous Black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who passed away in 1912, leaving behind a legacy including talented choirs throughout the nation, including one in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Knoxville College’s music department flourished throughout the ’10s and ’20s. In the ’30s, a beloved tradition was born under the leadership of talented Knoxville College alumnus Newell C. Fitspatrick. 

Go here to read the rest of this fascinating history preserved by the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. To make a donation or to learn more about the center, go here.

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