PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Moving music of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ bridges holiday gap

When anticipating Handel with Care, Wednesday’s annual sing-along of Handel’s “Messiah,” the orchestrator doesn’t talk about the sound.

Instead, Shirley Anderson talks about the feeling she has while surrounded — surrounded by sopranos, tenors, basses and altos who are her neighbors.

“It feels terrific,” says Anderson, who organized the first Handel with Care some 12 years ago as a benefit for Sequim Community Aid.

The singalong “Messiah” is still a fundraiser for the organization, which helps local families and individuals with basic living expenses, such as winter heating bills.

George F. Handel’s music is scheduled to warm the Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Admission, as always, is by donation to Sequim Community Aid. Also as in past years, an anonymous supporter will match all contributions dollar for dollar.

The 2010 Handel with Care singalong raised $3,000, Anderson said. Since everything that goes into staging the event is donated, 100 percent of the door proceeds go to Sequim Community Aid’s efforts.

This is a singalong for everyone — singer, listener, beginner, veteran — added Dewey Ehling, who has conducted it for seven years now.

“We give scores to anybody who comes in, so they have the words in front of them whether they know the music or not,” he said.

Ehling encourages newcomers to observe, listen and “as they feel comfortable, go ahead and join in.

“I think they will get caught up in the spirit of it,” he added. “It is contagious.”

For each December’s Handel with Care, Ehling and a committee of musicians choose a set of selections from “The Messiah,” since singing all 52 songs in it would take about three hours.

The singalong wraps in about 100 minutes including intermission, the conductor said.

“We try to pick the standards,” Ehling said. “One year I didn’t include ‘Unto Us a Child Is Born,’ and boy, did I hear about it.

“I also try to include one not-so-well-known song, so people can expand their knowledge of the oratorio.”

In the 11 years since the late Port Angeles Symphony conductor Nico Snel first led Handel with Care, it has become a between-Christmas-and-New Year’s tradition.

“It’s like the sweet part in the Oreo cookie,” said Anderson, as it’s bookended by the two holidays.

She adores the occasion, too, for the way it brings people together in song and in generosity.

“I’m not a very good singer. I just move around and listen,” Anderson said.

And at the end of the night, she counts the donations to Sequim Community Aid.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” she said. “That’s what feels really good.”

Like Ehling, Anderson urges all community members to enjoy the music Wednesday night.

“Even if you’re not a strong singer, you can sit next to someone and be helped — or be amazed,” she said.

“If you just want to hear it, come and listen, with me.”

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