The Chester County Christian Chorale was founded in 1976 by Clair Leaman. Its mission… to provide opportunities for singers to 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 sacred choral works.
From 1980-1983, the Chorale was conducted by the late Phil deVries, and from 1983-85, Greg Goida. Then for a few years, the Chorale ceased operations when no conductor could be found to continue the efforts.
In 1987, Tom Martin, a former choir member, suggested that chorale members be invited to come together on a Sunday afternoon (without rehearsal) to sing through the choruses of Handel’s Messiah. With about 20 singers in attendance and piano accompaniment, the Messiah Sing-a-longs were born.
The following year, a string quartet and harpsichord were hired to participate. The event was publicized, inviting singers other than those who had previously participated in the Chorale and an audience was encouraged to come and just listen. The second Sing-a-long was held at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Coatesville, PA, 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 17 piece 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, PA.
In 1998, Dale M. Weaver suggested that a Messiah Sing-a-long be started in Lancaster County, using the same format that had been successful in Chester County except it would be held in the spring rather than at Christmas. 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 their current venue at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The Chester County Messiah Sing-a-long is held between Christmas and New Years and the Lancaster County Messiah Sing-a-long is always scheduled the Friday after Easter. The timing avoids the busyness of Christmas and Easter programs, allowing the hiring of quality players since other professional commitments are less during these times.
Both performances are open to anyone who wants to sing or listen. There is no rehearsal for any participant. Everything is performed fresh the night of the Sing-a-long. By having no rehearsals, it is an “on-the-edge-of-your-seat” event and allows participation of singers from great distances. 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.