The Chester County Christian Chorale was founded in 1976 by Clair Leaman. Its mission… to provide opportunities for singers to rehearse and perform major sacred choral works with professional orchestra and soloists.
During its first years of existence, the Chorale performed Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, Vivaldi’s Gloria and other programs of sacred musical works.
From 1980-1983, the Chorale was conducted by Phil deVries and from 1983-85 performed under the direction of Greg Goida. Then for a few years, the Chorale ceased operations when no conductor could be found to continue the efforts. In 1987, a former choir member contacted Mr. Leaman, suggesting that chorale members be invited to come together on a Sunday afternoon (without rehearsal) to just sing through the choruses of Handel’s Messiah. With about 20 signers in attendance and with a piano accompaniment, the Messiah Sing-a-longs were born.
After that first Sing-a-long, Mr. Leaman invited a string quartet and harpsichord to participate the following year. The event was publicized, inviting singers other than those who had previously participated in the Chorale. An audience was also encouraged to come and just listen. The second Sing-a-long was held at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where participation grew in both the choir and the audience. By the third year, funding was secured from several private foundations. This enabled the hiring of a full orchestra and professional soloists. These (also without rehearsal) would complement the unrehearsed choir.
In the 1990′s, the December Sing-a-long was moved to its present location at Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church near Parkesburg, Pennsylvania where the choir has grown to as many as 180 singers with a listening audience of 500+.
In 1998, a friend suggested that a Messiah Sing-a-long be started in Lancaster County, using the same format that had been successful in Chester County. The Lancaster County Messiah Sing-a-longs would be held in the spring rather than at Christmas time. The first two Lancaster County Sing-a-longs were held at Neffsville Mennonite Church. In the spring of 2000, the Sing-a-longs were moved to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lancaster.
The Chester County Messiah Sing-a-long is always held between Christmas and New Years and the Lancaster County Messiah Sing-a-long is always scheduled the Friday after Easter. The timing is planned to avoid the hustle and bustle of Christmas and Easter programs which generally are completed by the time of the Sing-a-longs. It also allows the hiring of quality instrumental players because other professional commitments of the players are less during these times.
Both performances are open to anyone who wants to sing and anyone who wants to listen. There is no rehearsal for any participant. Everything is performed fresh the night of the Sing-a-long. By having no rehearsals, it becomes a delightful and “on-the-edge-of-your-seat” event. At Christmas, all of Part 1 and selections from Parts II and III are sung. At Easter, the Sinfonia from Part I is performed along with all of the selections from Parts II and III.