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Young Messiah Tour has an updated, 200-voice 'Messiah'

The Young Messiah Tour is a contemporized version of the Handel classic, featuring a superstar lineup of Christian artists. It's a grand spectacle served up on a grand scale.

The concert opens with selections of contemporary and traditional Christmas music, followed by a Christmas sing-along.

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Then comes an updated "Messiah," with a 40-piece orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. A 200-voice chorus also performs on the "in the round" staging.

But Saturday's show at the Baltimore Arena may be the last chance to see it here.

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"This year may be the last time we do 'The Young Messiah' in Baltimore," said producer Norman Miller. Now in its fifth season, the production will do a final tour next year -- but the tentative '95 schedule does not include Maryland.

In 1994, as in each year since its inception, the artist lineup for the tour is a little different from in the past.

"There's no formula for getting the performers," said Mr. Miller from his Nashville office. "Not many of them have concerts between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And if you limit the tour to, say, two and a half weeks, you can get commitments."

The one mainstay is Sandy Patty, who has been on the tour since 1990. The five-time Grammy winner performs the song "And the Glory of the Lord," which is also found on the 1993 record "The New Young Messiah." She also assumed the duties of co-host on this year's tour.

Ms. Patty, 38, has just released a new album, "Find It On the Wings." The album comes on the heels of her "Le Voyage" project, which received critical kudos but did not do as well commercially.

Other long-term Young Messiah performers are Wayne Watson, Twila Paris and the male quartet 4 Him.

4 Him is particularly hot in gospel music circles. They've won two straight Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association as Group of the Year. And their new album, "The Ride," is likely to take them even higher.

Other veterans of the tour include Steve Green, the trio First Call and Carman.

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This year, Mr. Miller has also secured Point of Grace, a female quartet whose debut album charted four No. 1 singles on Christian radio. Other newcomers are: Ron Kenoly, who has two albums on Billboard's Top 40 contemporary Christian chart; Babbie Mason; Wes King, who contributed his writing and performing skills to the popular "Songs From The Loft" project; Clay Crosse; and author Max Lucado, who is the other co-host of the event.

Despite the heavyweight status of the performers -- a combined 62 Dove Awards, 11 gold albums, three platinum albums, 16 No. 1 albums -- they do little of their own material. It's the lure of the "Messiah" oratorio that continues to captivate audiences. Some of the updated and rearranged songs to be performed from Handel's signature work: "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted," "He Shall Feed His Flock" and "The Trumpet Shall Sound."

The evening's concert culminates with the famed "Hallelujah Chorus," in which the choir, orchestra and soloists are going full tilt.

The Young Messiah Tour has averaged 16,000 in attendance throughout its run. Next year's tour, according to Mr. Miller, should see the production performed for its one millionth spectator.

Messiah music

To hear excerpts from "The New Young Messiah," featuring Sandy Patty, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6249 after you hear the greeting.

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The Young Messiah Tour

Where: Baltimore Arena

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $14.50 to $16.50

Call: (410) 481-SEAT


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