It's been a Lake area tradition for decades--the Lake Charles Messiah Chorus. It was started in 1940 by Dr. Francis Bulber in part as an educational program which became a project supported by McNeese State.
This would have been the 72nd year for the performance-- but it didn't happen this year. It's the only year the chorus did not perform Handel's Messiah except for 2005 when Hurricane Rita hit.
A few years back Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach issued a proclamation declaring the annual performance by Lake Charles Messiah chorus as the official start of the Christmas season in the lake area.
Francis Bulber's widow, Patricia Bulber is the President of the Lake Charles Messiah Chorus Board. Thousands of singers have participated in the Lake Charles Messiah Chorus since it was first started. She says his love of education was the catalyst: "He thought the students at McNeese that are in music, particularly, but also the whole student body, should be at least exposed to this monumental work."
For decades it heralded the beginning of the Christmas season in the Lake area and even brought Christmas joy to soldiers, such as in Korea. Mrs. Bulber says they have letters from soldiers. "Helicopters would fly over the troops in fox holes and play the Messiah."
Bulber says it was her husbands gift to the community--his way of keeping Christ in Christmas. "It was always performed on the first Sunday of December so as to raise the curtain on the Christmas season."
Colette Bulber Tanner is herself an extremely gifted musician and teacher. She misses sharing her father's legacy with the community this year. "It's an expression that he taught us to give to the community of Christ's nativity. It was almost like the velveteen rabbit that was played with and loved so much and then forgotten about."
The Lake Charles Messiah Chorus' difficulties started with Hurricane Rita when the chorus was unable to use F.G. Bulber auditorium due to storm damage. Lately they have suffered diminishing membership and financial support. Colette says the volunteer chorus was much smaller than before. "We were down to maybe 35, 40 people in the choir when we're used to having maybe 250 people in the choir." Patricia Bulber says, "My husband would not want the performance to be half baked, so to speak."
The Bulber family would love to see it brought back if the community is willing to support it with time, talent and treasure. Says Mrs. Bulber, "There seems to be a rumbling of people who are disappointed and maybe that rumbling is going to be a nice tympani roll to get things rolling again."
The Bulber family is encouraged by the renewed interest in seeing the Lake Charles Messiah chorus brought back. Anyone interested in helping to support the effort may contact Patricia Bulber at 477-0662.