GREENSBORO — As he listened to the Greensboro Oratorio Singers perform Handel’s “Messiah” last November, Jon Brotherton contemplated its future.
This 65th annual performance of the sacred masterpiece would be its last, the Oratorio Singers had announced. After that, the nonprofit group would disband.
“I thought that it would be a shame for such a wonderful tradition to be discontinued in Greensboro,” said Brotherton, who conducts another ensemble of volunteer community singers, the Choral Society of Greensboro.
The Choral Society’s board decided to take it on.
On Nov. 8, the 100-member group sponsored by The Music Center of City Arts will sing “Messiah” at First Baptist Church, 1000 W. Friendly Ave. in Greensboro.
Created in 1741, the musical composition for choir, soloists and orchestra traces the birth, passion and resurrection of Christ.
Since its founding in 1983, the Choral Society has presented several concerts annually, with an emphasis on major classical works. On Saturday, it will perform the cantata “Carmina Burana” in Dana Auditorium on the Guilford College campus.
Membership is open to all, although the ability to read music and some experience in choral singing are desirable.
“The Choral Society is the perfect organization to continue the tradition,” Brotherton said, adding that members have expressed enthusiasm.
The Choral Society will provide a core of singers for “Messiah,” but others are invited to join them — including former members of the Oratorio Singers, society President Bill Markham said.
Markham described Brotherton as “a master at getting the best out of amateur singers and helping them grow.”
Jay O. Lambeth conducted “Messiah” for 25 years for the Greensboro Oratorio Singers. But in recent years, audiences for the group’s other concerts had declined, prompting its board’s decision to fold.
Lambeth said Thursday that he is glad the “Messiah” performances will continue.
He said he hopes that former members of the Oratorio Singers — some of whom have sung “Messiah” for decades — will join the new production. They saw “Messiah” as their way of welcoming the holiday season.
Donna Royster, who chaired the Oratorio Singers’ board, said she expects that to happen.
Some Oratorio Singers also sing with the Choral Society. Others said they would continue with “Messiah” if another group picked it up, Royster said.
She said she would consider joining the Choral Society’s performance, depending on scheduling and the time commitment. The Oratorio Singers rehearsed Monday nights; the Choral Society rehearses on Tuesday nights in the Van Dyke Performance Space at the Greensboro Cultural Center.
Members of the Oratorio Singers and others who have sung all or most of “Messiah” multiple times are invited to join the Choral Society for the last five rehearsals starting Oct. 8. Singers less familiar with the work can join the Choral Society for weekly rehearsals starting Sept. 10.
Like the Oratorio Singers, the Choral Society won’t charge admission to “Messiah.” But it does cost money to produce.
The Oratorio Singers spent more than $15,000 to hire four soloists and a 20-piece orchestra, rent a venue and publicize the concert.
The Choral Society will continue to hire professional instrumentalists and soloists for “Messiah.” It will pass the plate for voluntary contributions to help finance the next year’s performance.
“We will be able to offer the community a high-quality performance,” Markham said.