CHICAGO (CBS) — The music of George Frederic Handel came to life at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park Monday, as hundreds of people sang in unison as part of the 36th annual Do-It-Yourself Messiah.

“They get high with excitement of singing with 1,500 people,” said Anne Murray, executive director of the International Music Foundation.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports

For Donna Moriarty and Jen Benke, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah has become a tradition.

“She and I have been doing this for 20-some years,” said Benke.

The audience is seated according to voice range and sings the choral part of the piece. Joining the audience is a full orchestra of volunteer musicians, and four professional soloists.

One of those volunteer musicians is CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield, who plays violin with the orchestra.

Murray says the event is a unique opportunity that sells out every year.

“It’s not very often that one gets a chance with your music and sing out with full voice and be accompanied by an orchestra,” she said. “It’s been a hit since year one.”

For many, the experience can be an emotional one.

“It can bring tears, it’s such a beautiful piece of work,” Murray said.
“It gives me goose bumps,” said Benke.

Composed by Handel in 1741, the Messiah is sung around the world during the winter holiday season.

Originally intended as an Easter oratorio, Handel’s Messiah tells the story of Jesus’ birth and life. Over the years, however, it has become more popularly associated with Christmas.

The “do-it-yourself” idea was born at a small church in rural England more than 30 years ago and was first staged in Chicago in 1976.

The Chicago Do It yourself Messiah is in its 36th year. A second show is scheduled for Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

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