If you've ever taken George Friderik Handel's "Messiah" for granted - that there'd always be a stirring rendition of his 1742 masterpiece to attend each holiday season - don't. It almost didn't happen for at least one Long Island chorale, and it's been a struggle even for the Island's longest-running choral society.
"We've been working really hard, passing the bucket each week, so we're paying for the rehearsal time," says Meredith Baker, director of the Long Island Choral Society. "And I don't know what we'd do without our orchestra angels. We only ran a $12,000 deficit last year. We were expecting it to be $15,000," she adds with a gallows laugh.
The Choral Society of the Moriches, which has depended on funds raised by the churches where it performs, struggled to come up with the $2,500 to $3,000 it needs for each "Messiah" concert. One church dropped out and is going with a community sing-along instead. "We had to bite the bullet and start begging for funds," says Lori Haus-Bulcock, president of the Moriches chorale, which has been around for 73 years.
The Long Island Choral Society can top that, having performed "Messiah" at the same venue, Garden City's Cathedral of the Incarnation, since 1929. "And I've been conducting it since '79," Baker says. "People should come and see if I've got it right yet." Several "Messiahs" have already been performed this season. You can still catch these:
CHORAL SOCIETY OF THE MORICHES: 7:30 Friday night, Dec. 18, Congregational Church of Patchogue, 95 E. Main St., 631-475-1235, moricheschoral.org
Cost: $15 (bring your own score or buy one at the door)
"Messiah" sing-along, Handel's oratorio, with audience participation, conducted by Martha Campanile.
COMMUNITY 'MESSIAH': 7:30 Friday night, United Methodist Church, 160 Main St., Southampton, 631-283-0951
A nondenominational sing-along. No need to bring sheet music. Goodwill offerings are welcome.
Cost: $25 ($18 advance); ($10 under age 18)
Handel's "Messiah" oratorio (Part 1) and "The Hallelujah Chorus," preceded by some of Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony Carols." Soloists include soprano Michele Eaton and tenor Doug Perry.
CHORAL SOCIETY OF THE MORICHES: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, Presbyterian Church of the Moriches, 263 Main St., Center Moriches, 631-289-6050, moricheschoral.org
Cost: Free (donations welcome)
"Messiah" oratorio, with pipe organ and orchestra, conducted by Campanile.
And if you can't make it to a "Messiah" concert, the choirs and congregations of many Christian churches across the Island will be singing "The Hallelujah Chorus" Sunday. Check for services at a church near you.
The Oratorio Society of Queens presents its annual holiday concert, featuring excerpts from Handel's "Messiah," plus sing-along Christmas carols and Hanukkah favorites. The soloists are soprano Geraldine McMillian, tenor John Easterlin, bass-baritone Vaughn Fritts along with Cantor Jerry Korobow. David Close conducts the Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens.
WHEN|WHERE 4 p.m. Sunday, Queensborough Performing Arts Center, Queensborough Community College, 22-05 56th Ave., at Springfield Boulevard, Bayside, 718-279-3006, queensoratorio.org
Cost: $25 ($20 students; free for children
Judy Raia contributed to this story.