LUMBERTON — Brandon Gaines will take to a stage Sunday night where Liza Minnelli, Yo-Yo Ma and Bob Dylan have all performed.
In doing so, the Lumberton native will be fulfilling his greatest wish on the eve of Christmas — singing in Carnegie Hall.
“It’s always been an aspiration of mine to perform at the big stages in the U.S.,” Brandon said during a telephone interview. “Theaters like Carnegie Hall or the Metropolitan Opera — those two are stages where I’d always hear the singers and performers I’ve always looked up to giving concerts.
“To not only get there, but to also perform a piece like this is a true honor.”
Gaines will perform George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” a three-hour, three-part composition with The Masterworks Chorus from Morristown, N.J., at the famed New York City concert hall, which was constructed by Andrew Carnegie. The curtain rises at 2 p.m.
The 60-member Masterwork Chorus is known for its performances of “Messiah.” The chorus first performed the composition in Morristown, N.J., in 1957, and then began the 51-year tradition of performing it at Carnegie Hall four years later.
Handel’s “Messiah,” composed in 1741, is a Scriptural anthology set to music. The lyrics were written by Charles Jennens, a literary scholar, who chose the Old and New Testament texts from the King James Bible.
“It was written as an Easter piece,” said Brandon, who first learned the composition in graduate school at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. “It focuses on the death and Resurrection of Christ. Part one focuses on Christ’s birth, which is the reason we perform it in the Christmas season.”
The composition begins with, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,” but is most known for by Hallelujah Chorus.
“It’s a true honor to perform such a historical piece of music like the Messiah in such a historic place,” Brandon said.
From the first cornerstone laid in 1890, the music venue renowned for its acoustics was prophesied to have a lasting effect on American culture.
“It is built to stand for ages,” Carnegie said, “and during these ages it is probable that this Hall will intertwine itself with the history of our country.”
Carnegie was right.
“The performance attracts all kinds of people,” Brandon said. “The Clinton family has attended, dignitaries, princesses, just because of the timing and the location. They usually perform it to a pretty packed house.”
Also in attendance on Sunday will be Brandon’s mother, Sue Gaines, who is flying in for the event.
“I’m just beyond words to express the feeling I have in my heart,” Sue said. “Brandon has done a lot of things with his voice and with his other talents and there is no way I would miss this. Come hell or high water, I will be there. I’ve got plane tickets, I’ve got Carnegie Hall tickets and I’ve got good seats. This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime-type thing.”
The Lumberton High School grad, who got his start singing in the United Methodist Church on Chestnut Street, said it was those beginnings that put him on the path toward Carnegie Hall.
“Great people there let me know that this was a thing that I could do and that there was a potential there,” Brandon said.
Brandon, who earned a graduate degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., now works in the office of the vice president for Finance and Treasurer at Princeton College. He credits local folks for helping him realize his dream.
As for others with the same aspirations, Brandon offers up some advice.
“You don’t have to be someone who is on American Idol, or who is a pop star. You can actually be a classical singer. Participating in a choir … allowed me to meet other people also interested in what I was doing, and it allowed me to grow.”