By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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What is important, Shirley Anderson believes, is what is the same.
Anderson, a retired schoolteacher and volunteer for Sequim Community Aid, is the woman behind the scenes of Handel with Care.
That's the name of the 14th annual sing-along “Messiah,” which raises funds for Sequim Community Aid, a grass-roots agency providing help to local families in need.
Handel with Care is open to all — singers and listeners — at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
As in past years, admission is free, while donations to Sequim Community Aid are welcome.
Dewey Ehling, the longtime conductor of the Peninsula Singers and the Handel with Care orchestra, plans to lead the assembly.
That's despite the fact that he suffered a heart attack Thanksgiving Day and spent a few days at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
A stent was placed in an artery that had been almost completely blocked; Ehling will have more stents put in at Swedish in January.
“I plan to be conducting 'The Messiah' this Saturday and look forward to it,” Ehling, 85, said this week.
The maestro's message about this music has always been about the joy of singing.
On Saturday, he will not look for technical prowess; instead he listens for “The Messiah's” intrinsic beauty, brought to life by the community of singers.
Ehling knows this music down to his core.
He attended Bethany College in Kansas, where Handel's “Messiah” has been performed annually since 1881.
Ehling was a student at Bethany in the late 1940s, and participated in the complete “Messiah” on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
His first two years of college, he sang in the Bethany choir; the other two years he played the oboe in the “Messiah” orchestra.
In the decades since, Ehling has led many a choir through the offering of Handel's oratorio.
“It is part of me,” he said.
This has not been an easy season for Ehling and his wife of 42 years, Lauretta. But Ehling is eager, as ever, to immerse himself in his beloved music.
Less than two weeks after his heart attack, Ehling conducted a portion of the Port Townsend Community Orchestra's Dec. 7 concert at the Chimacum High School auditorium.
Now he's ready to hear local singers' voices.
“People are counting on Handel's 'Messiah,'” Anderson added, “and that is what it will be.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.