LEWISTOWN - It has been more than 30 years since the walls of St. John's Lutheran Church have echoed with the powerful "Hallelujah Chorus."
But on Sunday, the beloved Christmas music will be performed again during a community choir performance of Handel's "Messiah."
Concert director Terri Limes remembered going to performances as a child in Lewistown, but at least a decade has gone by since the old chorus last was sung in the community.
"We want it to be a musical outreach ... a way to use music and involve the community," Limes said.
She opened up the community choir performance to anyone who would like to participate; and a choir of about 40 rehearsed on Wednesday.
"Since it's been so long since (the community's) done it, we didn't know how well people would know it," Limes said, prior to the rehearsal.
Josie Baughman, St. John's adult choir director who helped organize the rehearsal, seemed pleasantly surprised by the quality and strength of the voices that rang through the sanctuary Wednesday.
"We're just here to sing and have fun," she reminded choir, full of faces both young and old.
Prior to the rehearsal, the organizers chose featured soloists from some of the well-known musicians in the area. They are Graham Sanders, tenor, Katie Becker, soprano, Josh Berkey, bass, and Janice Mianualli, alto. Patty Loudenslager will accompany the choir on the organ.
Along with the "Hallelujah Chorus," the choir also will sing the first part, or Advent section, of the oratorio, which includes "For unto us a child is born" and "And the glory of the Lord."
Loudenslager said she envisions the future to hold more and larger "Messiah" performances every year, perhaps even with additional instrumental accompanists.
The free performance will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday at the church, Third Street, Lewistown.
"There are few people that have not heard the Hallelujah Chorus and been moved by it," Limes said. "It's one of the most recognized pieces in the Classical genre."
Inspiration moved composer George Frideric Handel to write the large religious work - 260 pages of orchestrated music - in just 24 days.
According to a history from www.messiahcd.com, Handel never left his house while he was composing. Afterward, he described the experience as "whether I was in the body or out of my body, when I wrote it, I know not."
Written in three parts with the help of literary scholar Charles Jennens, the musical "Messiah" story covers Christ's birth, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and return in the end times. Jennens used the text from the King James Bible for the lyrics.
Popular from its beginning, when "Messiah" debuted April 13, 1742, crowds of people were turned away from the hall.
Handel donated proceeds from the concert to charity. Through many of his 30 additional performances of "Messiah," Handel's generosity continued with charitable donations to debtor's prisons, hospitals and orphanages.
Though his famous work was well received, Handel continued to revise the oratorio until his death in 1759.