A Bit About Us
The Messiah Choral Society is a not for profit, 501(c)3 civic organization based in Winter Park, Florida. The society is not affiliated with any religious organization. We are open for all singers to participate. Each year, with generous community support, we raise all the funds necessary to continue our mission of providing a fine performance which is free to the public.
Over 40 years ago, William Eugene “Bill” Jarvis, a prominent Orlando music director, formed the society with the philosophy that Handel’s Messiah was worthy of a group dedicated solely to the performance of this masterpiece. The extraordinary vision of William Jarvis continues to inspire us to perform this classical oratorio annually as a gift to the Orlando community.
George Frideric Handel
Born on February 23, 1685, George Frideric Handel demonstrated extraordinary musical talent at an early age. He wrote his first composition at age twelve and was so proficient at the organ that he was able to substitute for his own teacher. At seventeen, he was appointed organist of the Calvinist Cathedral. At nineteen, he composed his first opera, Almira, which was soon followed by a second one named Nero.
Handel turned from opera to oratorio, writing twenty-six in his lifetime. In 1729, the Handelian oratorio on a Biblical subject was firmly established with two works, Saul and Israel in Egypt.
Changing monarchs, English competition, and fickle audiences took its toll on Handel. By 1741, he was deeply in debt and his health failed. He seemed certain to land in debtor’s prison. However, it was then that a wealthy friend, Charles Jennens, commissioned Handel to create a libretto based on the life of Christ.
Handel began composing on August 22nd. He grew so absorbed that he rarely left his room, hardly stopping to eat. When he had finished, he had written 260 pages of manuscript in only twenty-four days. The title he chose was simply Messiah.
Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 23, 1742, as a charitable benefit, raising 400 pounds and freeing 142 men from debtor’s prison. The following year, Handel staged it in London with the King of England in attendance. As the first notes of the Hallelujah Chorus rang out, for some unknown but fortuitous reason the king stood to his feet. Following royal protocol, the audience stood as well, initiating a tradition that has lasted for more than two centuries.
Handel personally conducted over thirty performances of Messiah; many were benefits for the Foundling Hospital. The thousands of pounds that Handel’s performance of Messiah raised for charity led one biographer to note: “Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan…more than any other single musical production in this or any country.”
On April 14, 1759, just eight days after his final performance of Messiah, George Frideric Handel died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. A statue erected there in his honor shows him holding the manuscript for the opening solo of Part III of Messiah – I know that my Redeemer liveth.
“Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived. I would remove my cap and kneel at his tomb. I can still learn from him.”
Collaboration & Outreach
The Messiah Choral Society is among the many Central Florida arts organizations which, through creative collaboration, strive to increase awareness of the many cultural offerings in our community. Such efforts not only allow more exposure for individual organizations, but also provide audiences with a more enriching cultural experience. Since 2008, the Messiah Choral Society has partnered with local cultural organizations and historical societies to bring this added dimension to our performance.
Get to Know Us Better
Messiah Choral Society is proud to be recognized as one of the first nonprofits in Central Florida to be totally transparent. You’ll be seeing a lot about a new Knowledge Base established by the Community Foundation of Central Florida to help donors and philanthropists explore the organizations they support. You can learn all about us, from our management, governance, and programs to an in-depth look at our finances that is searchable and validated. The Community Foundation’s leadership believes this site will allow local nonprofits more exposure to the community, new sources of funding and improved performance.
If you are a singer who strives for excellence, we invite you to join our Society as a Full Member. We begin our rehearsals in early September, continuing our work every Sunday afternoon through the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, which is typically the day of our concert. If you are unable to be a Society singer, then we wholeheartedly invite you to become an Associate Member.
Whether you sing with us or are a member of our audience, you’ll be sure to have an unparalleled artistic experience, the result of our dedication in performing this most magnificent and powerful musical composition. We look forward to your participation!