The Middletown Civic Chorus will present its 80th annual performance of Handel’s “The Messiah” at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Methodist Church in Middletown. The performance is free and open to the public. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Civic chorus celebrates 80th year with ‘Messiah’ performance

The 45-member civic chorus will present selections from Handel’s masterpiece at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Methodist Church in Middletown. Cake, cookies and punch will be served in the church’s lobby after the performance to celebrate the chorus that was founded in 1939 by Florence Wenzel. It’s the longest continual musical organization in Middletown, said Board President Suzanne Barr.

A free-will offering will be accepted and no tickets are required. Barr said the performance is free thanks to major sponsors, including the Barnitz Fund, Middletown Community Foundation, Middletown Symphony Legacy Fund, and the Miriam G. Knoll Foundation.

Jeremy Jones, associate professor of music at Miami University, will direct the 90-minute performance. The chorus will be accompanied by strings, organ, trumpet, and timpani, a kettle drum on loan from the Monroe High School music department. The timpanist will be Mark Carrozza.

The organist will be Cinda Pelfrey, music director at Monroe High and organist at Breiel Boulevard Church of God.

New this year, scripture passages will be shown on a screen throughout the performance.

When asked what draws people to the annual performance, Barr said: “It’s a heart thing. The music is just wonderful. It’s a very inspiring piece of music.”

She said the Messiah is divided into three parts: the birth, the death and the resurrection.

After hearing music, she said: “You can’t help but understand what love and a gift that were given to us. It’s all about love and hope.”

Barr said she was introduced to the Middletown Civic Chorus in 1962, her junior year at Monroe High School. At the time, she said, to sing in the choir you had to audition, and it was a requirement from her high school choir director.

Barr was accepted into the choir that year.

“I got bit by the bug,” said Barr, who has missed only a few performances in the last 57 years. “It wouldn’t seem like Christmas without ‘Messiah.’”

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