South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) lit up the stage with the return of its popular holiday program with performances of Handel’s glorious Messiah, and timeless uplifting Holiday Pops at The Parker in Fort Lauderdale and at Barry University in Miami. Sebrina María Alfonso, music director, conducted the performances featuring soloists Katherine Henly (soprano), Lisa Marie Rogali (mezzo-soprano), Chauncey Packer (tenor) and Neil Nelson (bass baritone), and the South Florida Symphony Chorus. Jonathan Kandell of Smithsonian magazine writes, “A musical rite of the holiday season, the Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners 250 years after the composer’s death.” In 1789, Mozart posthumously paid Handel the supreme compliment of reorchestrating Messiah but even Mozart confessed himself to be humble in the face of Handel’s genius describing his orchestrations: “When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.” In 1823, Beethoven proclaimed Handel to be the ‘greatest’ composer that ever lived. “South Florida Symphony Orchestra was elated to usher in the holiday season with our world class musicians performing Handel’s majestic and inspirational Messiah!,” said Jacqueline Lorber, president and CEO of South Florida Symphony Orchestra. “With dazzling special guest vocalists and Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios leading the South Florida Symphony Chorus, this holiday celebration is more than just a concert; it’s a warm and inviting tradition that unites our community in the spirit of the season for people of all ages to treasure.” SFSO’s 2023 holiday program opened with a selection of time-honored Holiday Pops festive favorites including selections from The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Bocelli’s The Prayer, plus audience sing-alongs. SFSO then launched into Part I of Handel’s Messiah. The performance culminated with the iconic “Hallelujah” chorus as sung by the South Florida Symphony Chorus, made-up of seasoned chorale singers and community talent, directed by Dr. Giselle Elgarresta Rios. Rios and Maestra Alfonso collaborated to create the South Florida Symphony Chorus in 2019, which made its debut at the Beethoven 250th celebration in February of 2020. Upcoming concerts include masterworks from Brahms, Bernstein, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and more, plus Symphony premieres by trailblazing female composers Florence Price, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Jessie Montgomery. SFSO will also host a 200th anniversary celebration of Beethoven’s magnificent Symphony No. 9 on March 3 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Additional popular music performances including Maestra Alfonso conducting SFSO in a live performance of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ™ In Concert on April 5 and 6 and Classical Mystery Tour: A Symphonic Tribute to The Beatles on May 11, both at Broward Center for the Performing Arts (separately ticketed events). Founded in 1997 in Key West by Music Director Maestra Sebrina María Alfonso, the now Wilton Manors-based South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) is celebrating its 26th season. SFSO is dedicated to providing enriching cultural music experiences to residents and visitors in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Guided by the belief that music is pivotal to thriving communities, SFSO brings vibrancy and engagement with the arts via innovative programming and transformative educational initiatives. A pioneer in its commitment to symphonic music for underserved communities, its Symphony in the Schools program has touched the lives of 100,000 students since its inception in 1997. SFSO was recently named the first Partner in the Arts for The Parker by the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and has been recognized by the Broward County Cultural Division as a “Major Cultural Institution,” one of only a handful of organizations to be so honored.