WINCHESTER — Start the holiday season enjoying the ultimate choral masterwork with a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” by The Arts Chorale of Winchester.

The performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, 130 Keating Drive in Winchester.

First performed in 1741, the famous oratorio contains 52 movements in three parts. The three sections tell the story of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. Probably the best-known piece from the work is the rousing “Hallelujah” Chorus, a piece that traditionally brings the audience to its feet for the entire piece.

In larger cities, it’s not unusual for “Messiah” to be performed each year, either at Christmas or Easter. But in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, it’s a rare treat because it is such an ambitious project.

But an ambitious project is just what Michael Main, the group’s founding director, was looking for.

Main and the group’s accompanist Richard McPherson are retiring to the beach next year.

Main wanted something special — something glorious — as a way to say good-bye to Winchester.

“The very first thing I thought of when planning my final season was “Messiah,” said Main, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Shenandoah University. “It’s going to be quite a performance.”

Friday’s performance will feature four professional soloists (two on the Shenandoah University faculty and two from Washington, D.C.) and an orchestra. The concert will last about 21/2 hours with one intermission.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at Any remaining tickets will be available for cash purchase at the door. There is no admission fee for children ages 12 and under. The Sacred Heart sanctuary can seat nearly 1,000 people.

“Some people can stay too long at a job,” said Main, reflecting on his time as the Arts Chorale leader. “I feel like I’ve done a good job at establishing the organization.”

The Arts Chorale began with 30 singers and now numbers more than 70 members, who must audition for a spot. At least 15 current members have been with the group since Main started it in 2001.

“What we have created with the Arts Chorale is nothing short of a phenomenon,” said Main, who directed his first choir when he was 13 years old. “We’re doing stuff at the highest level.”

The board of directors is searching for a new artistic director and accompanist for the group and expects to announce new leadership in the spring.

In the meantime, Main has big ideas for his final performance with the Arts Chorale of Winchester, which will be the spring concert in March. But he’s not ready to share the details just yet.

“This is going to be an emotional season,” he said.

— Contact Robyn Taylor at

(1) comment


Looking forward to it!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.