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Make a joyful noise

Queens residents from all walks of life — retired engineers, teachers, transit workers — will come together this weekend to perform in the Oratorio Society of Queens’ annual holiday concert, an event that has become so popular there was a waiting list for it last year.

“We have gone from trying to fill a hole to selling out year after year,” said David Close, the conductor of the Oratorio Society of Queens. “To me it means there’s a hunger out there for it and we’re supplying it. The music we love is something we can share with others.”

The 83-year-old community chorus will perform portions of Handel’s “Messiah,” in addition to traditional Christmas favorites and Hanukkah songs, this Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center at Queensborough Community College at 222-05 56th Ave. in Bayside. Bayside resident Close said he expects the event to sell out, as it did last year, when there was a waiting list for the event for the first time. There are 875 seats in the venue, and Close said many tickets have already been purchased.

“People should come and be ready to have a really wonderful time,” said Close, a graduate of the Queens College music program who has been conducting the Oratorio group for 40 years. “It’s a lot of fun.”

More than 120 members sing in the Oratorio Society of Queens, which was founded in 1927 by people who did not want to schlep into Manhattan to participate in choruses, Close said. The group includes people of all ages from a wide variety of backgrounds, Close said.

“They’re from all over the borough,” Close said. “There are retired engineers, nurses, psychologists, teachers, office managers, some guys work for the transit system. They’re all different but they all love to sing.”

Since the society’s inception, its popularity has steadily increased and Close said the annual concert has become one of their most anticipated cultural events.

The Dec. 19 event, which will last about 2 1/2 hours, will include performances by the chorus and a 40-member orchestra. Besides the portions of Handel’s “Messiah,” the evening will include performances of “Ma’oz Tsur,” a traditional Hanukkah song and “Ocho Kankelikas,” a Hanukkah song performed in Ladino, a Spanish-derived language associated with the Sephardic Jewish community.

The famous Peter, Paul and Mary song “Light One Candle” will be sung, as will such traditional Christmas carols as “O Holy Night,” “Adeste Fideles” and a Caribbean-inspired holiday song, “Mary’s Little Boy Child.”

“Our particular blend of programming and quality of the artists who sing are always extremely good,” Close said. “A lot of people tell us they don’t even hear this kind of music in the city. Most people in the city do the standard ‘Messiah’ or renaissance choral music, and our blend of traditional and a more popular feel seems to have struck a nerve and a chord with people.”

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and students with ID and children under 12 years old who are accompanied by an adult are free. For more information, call the Oratorio Society of Queens at 718-279-3006 or visit queensoratorio.org.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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