GREENSBORO — When the Greensboro Oratorio Singers gave its final performance of “Messiah” in 2018, it wondered who might fill the void.
As it turns out, local audiences will find not just one, but two separate major productions of Handel’s sacred masterpiece in fall 2020.
The Choral Society of Greensboro announced this week that the volunteer community ensemble will perform the seasonal classic this year on Nov. 8 at First Baptist Church, then annually after that. Admission will be free.
But the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra already had planned for its new Master Chorale to sing “Messiah” with the orchestra on Dec. 10, 2020, said Lisa Crawford, symphony president and chief executive officer.
That performance will be held in the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled to open in March at North Elm and East Lindsay streets and Abe Brenner Place.
The symphony’s Master Chorale will be a volunteer group, with membership by audition, Crawford said. It will make its debut at the symphony’s concert on March 28, 2020.
Both groups will perform the 1741 musical composition for choir, soloists and orchestra that traces the birth, passion and resurrection of Christ.
The Choral Society has not set a date for 2020, society President Bill Markham said. It won’t be at the same time as the symphony’s performance.
The symphony has not decided whether to continue performing “Messiah” beyond 2020, Crawford said.
Symphony and Choral Society leaders communicated in recent months via email. But each group ultimately decided to stick with its own plans.
Each performance will take a different approach, Markham said.
One will be sung by an auditioned chorus with the symphony, performed as part of its classical Masterworks series with an admission charge.
The Choral Society will ask former members of the Greensboro Oratorio Singers and other amateur volunteer singers to join them. It will hire professional instrumentalists and soloists.
“We didn’t make the decision as an effort to compete with the symphony,” Markham said. “We wanted to establish a tradition of an annual community ‘Messiah’ with no admission charge and volunteer singers. We didn’t thinking skipping 2020 would be consistent with our goal of getting it established.”
Will there be an audience large enough in 2020 for two productions?
“My preference is that there would only be one, but it is a popular piece,” Crawford said.