For Arcadia Chorale alto Linda Hickernell, the best concert of the year takes place this afternoon.
“It’s wonderful to see people sing for the love of singing,” she said, explaining how fans of the 18th-century composer G.F. Handel will gather at St. Luke’s Church to sing portions of his great oratorio, “The Messiah,” with the chorale.
Estimating that at least 90 percent of the audience members come to sing rather than simply to listen, Hickernell explained they divide into four sections — sopranos, altos, tenors and basses — which makes it easier to hold onto the harmony.
“They put their whole heart and soul into it,” said Hickernell, president of the chorale’s board of directors.
“Most of them already have their own scores,” she said, which points to how much of a tradition the singalong has become.
The Arcadia Chorale, which used to be known as the Robert Dale Chorale, has hosted the singalong for 30 years, musical director Steven Thomas said.
Each year, he said, he sees through a show of hands there are always some first-timers.
Those newcomers are very welcome, he said, and they need not worry about getting perfect every nuance of pitch or rhythm or that “the-kingdom-of-this-world-is-become” spot in the Hallelujah Chorus where the altos come in half a beat before the other singers.
“The chorale prepares this pretty carefully,” Thomas said. “The singers know it very well. All those details they are solid on. And I mostly hear them. The chorale is laying the foundation, and the audience joins in.”
Most participants bring their own copies of “The Messiah,” Hickernell said, but Thomas has several copies on hand for those who might need them.
The oratorio is divided into three parts, and today’s concert will include the entire first part, sometimes called the “Christmas” section, which includes such lyrics as “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” and “Glory to God.”
One of his favorite moments, Thomas said, comes during an instrumental pastoral symphony. “It’s supposed to represent the shepherds making music with each other and suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a narrator, a soprano soloist who says the angel appears. Then the full chorus comes in with ‘Glory to God.’ It’s a really cool, dramatic moment.”
The Hallelujah Chorus and “Worthy is the Lamb” aren’t part of the Christmas section, but fear not. They also will be included.