Messiah Choral Society to perform oratorio at Bob Carr Theater

The Winter Park-based nonprofit features singers from all walks of life.

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  • | 11:06 a.m. November 22, 2017
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Choir fans, rejoice: The Messiah Choral Society will be conducting its annual performance of Handel’s Messiah Sunday, Nov. 26, at the Bob Carr Theater. 

The Winter Park-based nonprofit will sing the 18th-century oratorio written by the renowned German composer George Fredric Handel. The collection of choruses, arias and other musical numbers tells the story of the birth of Christ. 

Although the Messiah Choral Society has dabbled with other productions — it sang at Avalon Aglow and at an Orlando retirement community last year — the sole purpose has been putting on a free performance of Handel’s Messiah every November for more than 40 years.

That suits society President Maggie Winter just fine.

“There’s just something about (Handel’s Messiah) when you’re singing it,” Winter said. “In this chaotic world, when you’re singing it, it brings such a sense of peace. You feel like everything is OK.”

Handel’s Messiah is an extensive piece of work; It typically runs more than two-and-a-half hours — and that’s before a few chorus numbers are cut to save time. Winter believes its complexity is a challenge that draws singers to join the group.

She said the musical ensemble has more than 100 members who come from all walks of life. Some are students in high school and college, while others have lived close to a century. They’re all united, though, in their passion for the oratorio.

“Some (members) drive two hours to rehearsal,” Winter said. 

Rehearsals for the show are held in the Rollins College music building for 12 weeks in the fall. Dr. John Sinclair, director of music at Rollins College, has been the society’s music director and conductor for 30 years.

“It’s like having a voice lesson all the time,” Winter said of Sinclair. “He’s a perfectionist.”

Winter, 67, moved from Connecticut to Orlando more than 25 years ago. Although this is her first year as the society president, she has been part of the crew for more than a decade. She spent three years as the group’s secretary before becoming vice president for three years. 

“I grew up with a family that couldn’t get together without bursting into four-part harmony,” Winter said. “I was singing as soon as I could talk.”

Winter acquired a taste for classical music, particularly pieces from the Baroque era. She believes singing that time period’s music is a challenge but one she enjoys.    

Although Winter is a veteran Messiah member, she — like every other performer — still is trying to improve.

“As complicated as the music is, I keep striving to improve in my ability to sing it,” Winter said. “It’s not boring to sing it again. … I just try to learn a little more than I knew the year before. That’s what drives people to keep singing this piece.”


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