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Oratorio Society celebrates 85th year

The Oratorio Society of Queens will kick off its 85th season with the annual holiday concert. Photo courtesy Oratorio Society of Queens
TimesLedger Newspapers

The Oratorio Society of Queens is planning to celebrate its 85th anniversary by opening the season with a collection of multicultural carols during its annual holiday concert.

Maestro David Close said the Dec. 18 concert, at Queensborough Community College, will begin with the society’s traditional presentation of excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah,” with an encore from the “Hallelujah” chorus.

“The second half will be reflective of more popular performances and ethnic diversity, with Hanukkah songs and songs that Peter, Paul and Mary made famous called ‘Light One Candle,’” Close said. “We even have a West Indian carol called ‘Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy’ and we conclude with ‘O Holy Night’ and invite the entire audience to sing along to ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

LeeAnn Close, the maestro’s wife and the society’s treasurer, said the holiday concert will be one of three celebrations to mark the 85th anniversary: This year’s concert will open the season, the annual spring concert will be the big celebration and next year’s holiday concert will close it out.

She added, “85 is something — I don’t know what it is, but it’s something!”

The Parsons family, namesakes of the eponymous boulevard, founded the society in January 1927 and it is the oldest performing arts organization in the borough, David Close said.

“Imagine, there was no train in 1927. The kinds of people who started it were the movers and shakers. They didn’t want to have to go into the city to participate with the New York Oratorio Society,” he said.

The Oratorio Society of Queens now has more than 100 active members, who come and go as their lives allow them to share their passion for performing choral music with members of their community.

The maestro said that through challenges such as the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the Sept. 11 attacks, the society has been able to persevere.

“A lot of things don’t last a number of years. There have been a lot of challenges in the course of 85 years,” he said. “We’ve really created a community of people and out of that comes the love of music and the love of performing choral music. I’m very proud of who we are and what we’ve done as an oratorio society.”

He said 85 years more than justifies an extended celebration.

“I like to take advantage of a longer stretch. There’s a celebratory feel to the whole thing. We want people to know we’re here,” he said. “We’re joyous and we want people to share what we have and share it a little longer in an anniversary year. Obviously, you don’t do this with 86 or 83.”

To order tickets and for more information, call the Oratorio Society of Queens at 718-279-3006 or visit queensoratorio.org.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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