Behind the scenes with Wendell Boertje

Behind the scenes with Wendell Boertje

Wendell Boertje is the conductor for Knoxville Handel Society’s performance of The Creation at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on April 29 at 7:00 PM. His career offers insight about pursuing life goals and motivating singers in music ministry.

Timing is the unseen factor that sometimes decides your path. Wendell Boertje learned this firsthand when he arrived on campus at Moody Bible Institute as a young man, weighing the option of music or pastoral ministry as a career path. Growing up in a pastor’s home with musical parents, Wendell was given opportunities to develop musically by playing piano and organ in his father’s church. He left for college undecided. The music proficiency placement test occurred first, and he was accepted on probation. Wendell proceeded with a music major. Upon receiving a BA in organ, Wendell considered teaching on the secondary level; thus, he began a track at Wheaton College of Music toward a Bachelor’s in Music Education. For a time, Wendell taught in middle school and high school.

Wendell directing a choir in his early years

At Southern Seminary, Wendell was influenced toward church music by Donald Hustad, with the concept of combining music, teaching and ministry in the local church. Pursuing a Masters’ degree in Conducting, Wendell took his first church as an “experiment.” The rest is history, as they say. They made great music; he taught in church and at conferences and was Adjunct Professor at Southern Seminary. Timing again was everything. No longer an experiment, he found that Music Ministry gave opportunities for pastoral care, training in theology, and creative worship.

Wendell conducting a Messiah concert. Far left is Mike Bundon, who is tenor soloist for The Creation.

Asked what he had learned in directing volunteer choirs, Wendell replied, “They want to be taught, to develop, to improve, to grow musically, theologically, socially…They want to belong, to have a sense of community and fellowship. They want to be loved and guided by love, not the law! They want a strong, positive identity. They want to be led by example!”

Choice of The Creation for Knoxville Handel Society’s upcoming concert flowed from ideas expressed by the community after the performance by KHS of Messiah, Parts 2 & 3, under the direction of Guest Conductor Donald Neuen last spring. Wendell continued, “It (The Creation) is respected, loved by musicians and choristers. Haydn founded his concepts of writing on Handel’s oratorios and writing. It is fitting that Knoxville Handel Society present Haydn.” Wendell had directed The Creation before; the Central Baptist Bearden Church Choir had performed it in Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. He had also sung The Creation under Don Neuen previously in Coral Gables, Florida. The Creation was an obvious choice for Knoxville Handel Society.

The motivation to continue in music leadership derives from Wendell’s philosophy that music must be prepared, shared and received. He finds the greatest satisfaction in making music in that order. He adds reflectively, “I‘m not sure I can just be the receiver of music.”

Wendell’s conducting style is no less than what he expects of the choir: energy, life, total engagement. “Don’t let your mind wander!” is a frequent admonition. When vocal technical production meets musicianship, you have Art, as he reminds the choir.

How many hours have been given to preparation of The Creation? Wendell replied quickly, “Months!” He began in December reading background literature on Haydn—everything he could find. The last few weeks he has worked every day, sometimes as much as 4-5 hours per day. His role is not only to prepare the choir, but three soloists and 30 instrumentalists. Performing it as Haydn envisioned it is the mantel the conductor wears. Wendell wears Haydn’s mantle as he steps to conduct Knoxville Handel Society Choir and Orchestra Sunday night, April 29 at 7:00 PM. The Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is the ideal venue for this work—a sacred space designed for God’s glory, to host a work written for God’s glory.


2018 Concert: Haydn’s The Creation

2018 Concert: Haydn’s The Creation

Almost one year has passed since the fledgling community choir, Knoxville Handel Society, brought its first concert, Handel’s Messiah Parts 2 & 3, to the Tennessee Theatre. With a commitment to perform choral masterworks and to promote Choral Art, Knoxville Handel Society presented a concert of best-loved classical masterworks November 12, accompanied by orchestra and magnificent pipe organ.

We are elated to announce our Spring Concert, The Creation, by Franz Joseph Haydn. The oratorio will be performed Sunday, April 29 at 7:00 PM in the newly completed Sacred Heart Cathedral. Many of you have watched the progress of this impressive structure over two years of construction. It is a dream come true to anticipate singing in this inspiring sacred space. We are extending this extraordinary opportunity for you to be part of the first performance of the Cathedral Concert Series in the new Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral. The multi-generational KHS choir will be enhanced by 30-piece orchestra and professional soloists: Jami Rogers-Anderson, soprano; Michael Bundon, tenor; and Andrew Wentzel, bass. Wendell Boertje, KHS Music Director, will conduct.

Hayden’s The Creation |April 29 at 7:00 PM | Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus | 711 South Northshore Drive, Knoxville TN 37919

The Creation is the highly esteemed oratorio depicting the Creation of the world, based on the Genesis biblical account of creation, and John Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost. The KHS performance will include selected solos and choruses, somewhat abbreviated, due to the original score being quite lengthy.

Tickets for The Creation are available online at or by calling Knoxville Tickets at 865.656.4444.

Adults $20; groups of 4 or more $15; College students $10; K-12 Students no charge. We encourage purchase of tickets in advance due to the expectation of a large audience.