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Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Katymarie Mande, left, and Aubrey Johnson play their violins during a rehearsal at the LDS Grove Ward.

AMERICAN FORK — Messiah sing-ins are curious things.

The music is the demanding, beautiful and majestic score George Fredric Handel created 250 years ago with difficult passages, high notes and precision timing, music even professionals regard with some awe and trepidation.

But at these events, it's entirely accessible.

The young, the old, the amateur and the professional can all sing together, creating a sense of wonder that ushers in the spirit of Christmas like nothing else can.

"It's just kind of a neat family experience," said Miriam Frazier, who has played in the orchestra for more than 10 years. "There are lots of little family groups participating. I have four children involved this year and a sister with four coming."

Frazier said members of the choir and the orchestra buy nearly 200 poinsettias they use to decorate the tabernacle and contribute money to pay for the professional soloists.

"It's just really wonderful. It's just a beautiful time," she said.

"It's such inspiring music. It really kind of kicks off the season for me," said Joan Evans. "After singing for 20 and a half years in the (Mormon Tabernacle) choir, I find the movements familiar and enjoy the vocal exercise."

Jill Bills started singing "The Messiah" with the Utah County group six years ago. Today, she drives in every week from Heber City to attend rehearsal.

For Bills, the music is challenging as well as powerful.

"I don't read music, so I sit next to people who do. I love to sing, and I know it well enough by now, I can follow it. It's the timing I can't get on my own."

Does it ruin things to have the audience join in after the choir has worked so hard to achieve perfection?

"No, that's the fun of it. I love to look out and see everybody singing. It moves me to tears," Bills said.

The performance this year features internationally known tenor George Dyer, mezzo soprano Laura Garff Lewis, soprano Mary Young and bass singer Greg Pearson. A full orchestra under the baton of Lisa Brodie and a 120-voice chorus, conducted by Lois Stout, will perform as well.

"This is the only professional-level 'Messiah' that's free. We do this as our gift to the community," said Brodie. "My mother (Lois Stout) and I train the orchestra and the chorus members at no charge."

Brodie and Stout train the chorus for five weeks prior to the sing-in, providing more sound and more fun for those who some to sing in the audience on performance night.

"We have been doing this long enough that we have many families who have sung with us or played in the orchestra with us for 10 years. It's a huge family thing," Brodie said. "We go out of our way to invite seniors, music students and anyone who just loves to sing."

If you go

What: Messiah sing-in featuring Jame O'Neil Miner

Where: Provo Tabernacle, 100 S. University Ave.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3

How much: $5/$3 students and seniors

What: Timpanogos Festival Orchestra & Chorus "Messiah" sing-in

When: 7 p.m., Dec. 2

Where: Alpine Tabernacle, 100 E. Main, American Fork

How much: free (bring your own copy of the music)

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com