Every art form has its own iconic Christmas tradition: for theatre, it’s A Christmas Carol; for ballet, it’s the Nutcracker—for classical music, it is undoubtedly Handel’s Messiah.
Composed in 1741, Handel’s immortal oratorio has secured a place in history as one of the most frequently performed choral-orchestral works of all time. Perhaps best remembered for its exuberant “Hallelujah” chorus, the English-language oratorio unfolds over the course of three hours, setting liturgical texts that celebrate the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Handel originally composed the Messiah as an Easter offering, but the masterwork has since become a hallmark of the Christmas season, with countless choirs and orchestras around the globe performing their own (often abbreviated) renditions each winter. In Seattle alone, there are at least seven different ways to experience the illustrious oratorio this December.
From churches to concert halls, sing-alongs to mandolin meditations, here are just a handful of ways to hear Handel’s masterwork this season.
Northwest Chorale’s Messiah helps feed the hungry. Under the baton of Lynn Hall, this community choir of over 60 singers performs Handel’s timeless classic for free, with donations accepted to benefit Northwest Harvest. Plus, there’s a singalong performance at the end of December.
Dec. 2, Epiphany Parish of Seattle
Dec. 9, Edmonds United Methodist Church
Dec. 29 (Sing-and-Play-Along), St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Garfield Orchestra Sing-Along
Support public school orchestra programs with your ticket to the Garfield Orchestra’s 18th annual Messiah Sing-Along. A $15 ticket ($10 for students) gets you in the door and singing along to Handel’s perennial classic as this award-winning high school symphony orchestra performs the accompaniment. All proceeds go toward providing Garfield students with musical scores, instruments, scholarships, ensemble coachings and other resources.
Dec. 8, Seattle First Baptist Church
Seattle Mandolin Orchestra: Mandolin Messiah
It’s Handel’s Messiah like you’ve never heard it before: on an orchestra of mandolins. This abbreviated version of the beloved oratorio trades out the full choir for just four vocal soloists accompanied by the gently plucked strings of the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra. Tickets for this intimate performance run $15–$22.
Dec. 10, Green Lake United Methodist Church
Dec. 17, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts
Over 70 voices echo across the South Sound in Symphony Tacoma’s performance of Handel’s masterpiece. Four vocal soloists ranging from operatic stars to Baroque-era specialists join the orchestra for this year’s production under the baton of Geoffrey Boers, director of choral activities at the University of Washington. Tickets are $30 for general admission or $48 for a reserved seat up close.
Dec. 14, Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church (Gig Harbor)
Dec.15, St. Charles Borromeo Parish (Tacoma)
If the highest caliber musicianship is at the top of your Christmas list, count yourself among the nearly 8,000 audience members each year who attend Seattle Symphony’s annual Messiah performances. A renowned cast of four soloists from around the country join Seattle’s world-class symphony and chorale in Handel’s immortal oratorio, conducted this year by Ruth Reinhardt. Tickets range from $24–$89.
Dec. 15–17, Benaroya Hall
Orchestra Seattle & Seattle Chamber Singers
These baroque oratorio experts have been performing the Messiah every December for more than four decades. Dedicated to performing choral-orchestral masterworks from across the ages, OSSCS takes no shortcuts: You’re in for Handel’s full Messiah, every last recitativo, accompagnato, aria and chorus included. Tickets range from $10–$25, and kids get in free.
Dec. 16, Seattle First Free Methodist Church
Dec.17, Everett First Presbyterian Church
University Unitarian Church (Sing-and-Play-Along)
Expect full participation in this annual Messiah Sing-and-Play-Along led by conductor Karen P. Thomas. An annual tradition since 1971, this community concert invites the audience to perform Handel’s oratorio in its entirety, with vocal and instrument scores available for loan at the event (you’ll need your own music stand, though). Tickets range from $13–$18, but get yours early—this concert sells out every year.
Dec. 26, University Unitarian Church