First United Methodist Church in Moorestown will host the 40th annual community singalong to Handel’s “Messiah” on Dec. 4.
Church music co-Director Donna Banes will conduct and Glenn Rodgers, former director of music, will play the organ.
“People can come here, without qualification, without restriction, and the doors are open and you can participate,” Rodgers said. “You are part of this.”
Banes grew up in the church and continues to see the singalong grow.
“There’s that community of total support, so to watch that build each year and more and more people come, it amazes me each year,” she said.
Banes has led the musical event since Rodgers retired.
“I don’t take that lightly, because people are looking to you to lead this, and it’s daunting, but it’s so cool,” she noted.
Participants will sing the entire Christmas section of Handel’s work and selected choruses from its second and third sections, then conclude with the Hallelujah chorus. There will be a celebratory gathering afterward.
“The first words that are sung are comfort,” Rodgers explained. “To hear that and to sing that is just a gift right there, and then when the first chorus comes around, you hear the full organ and everybody is singing. It’s kind of overwhelming, that experience.”
“It really has been 40 years of really serving this community and just developing such a special bond with this group,” Banes noted.
Future musical events at First United include a percussion recital; an organ and piano concert; and Live Passion, the presentation of the Passion of Christ through music and drama by the youth fellowship and adult choir.
“It started out with just the youth doing it and now the choir has come into it, and we do it here in the sanctuary now and there’s this massive backdrop,” Banes said of Live Passion. “That’s another important piece I think.”
For Banes, the annual event marks the start of the holiday season.
“It’s just exciting to have everybody come and do this,” she said. “It starts my Christmas. Thanksgiving is done and this has always been, for 40 years, this has been when it starts for me. Of course, we roll with the Christmas season and we do other things here and remembrance services and Christmas Eve, but this sets the tone for that.”
Rodgers shared what he hopes people experience when singing together.
“Here’s this profound, gifted genius (Handel) who created this work of hope and redemption and eternity,” he pointed out. “I want people to get that and by singing it, you process things in a different way than reading or speaking.”
“Singing the songs, it gets in you in a different way, and that’s what I want people to experience and take away and have in their life.”
For more information on Handel’s Messiah, visit https://meetwithgod.com.