December 13, 2022
Edna Hargrett, at left, is pictured with Jones High School Concert Choir members in the 1970s.

Fifty years ago, music teacher Edna Sampson Hargrett wanted to help her choral students get more out of life and introduce them to classical musical. She took on the challenge of teaching them Handel’s “Messiah,” the nearly three hour oratorio composed in 1741, reports the Orlando Sentinel. 

Unbeknownst to her at the time, she would create a 50-year tradition by doing so. As Orange County Public Schools were undergoing desegregation, Hargrett used “Messiah” to empower her Black students.

“It was the message she was sending out that makes it so powerful,” Redding said. “She used the ‘Messiah’ to inspire generations,” says Jeffery Redding, director of choral activities at UCF and one of Hargrett’s former students.

Today, Redding carries on Hargrett’s legacy with his own choir.

On December 8, Redding returned to his alma mater, Jones High School, to co-conduct the ‘Messiah 50’ concert. The UCF choir joined the Jones High School Alumni and Community Choir and the Orlando Choral Society to perform the formidable piece.

“This is my way of giving back when so much has been given to me,” Redding said. “It’s emotional. I’m doing it to honor a woman who paved the way for me.”

Read the full article about Hargrett’s legacy at the Orlando Sentinel.