Messiah is a musical story of the birth of Jesus that has brought joy to millions during the Christmas season for decades.
And the Central United Protestant Church Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra has been presenting Messiah since 1980. But that comes to an end this weekend.
The final performances of Messiah will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the CUP church, 1124 Stevens Drive in Richland. Admission is $10 for adults and free to ages 18 and younger.
"At Central Church, it's almost impossible to think about December and Christmas without remembering the many years of our grand and historic tradition of Handel's Messiah," said CUP volunteer LeAnne Johnson. "And it's with sad and heavy hearts we say goodbye to this long tradition in our church and community."
Budget cuts and tough financial times forced church leaders to pare down expenses, Johnson said.
Messiah came to life in 1980 when then-music director Steve Harter formed the Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra at CUP. Harter later moved to Texas, then to Colorado, but he left Messiah in capable hands.
Justin Raffa took over as music director a few years ago, and longtime Tri-City piano teacher Holly Harty has been the production's accompanist since 1980.
Handel's Messiah is sometimes described as a musical commentary on the Nativity, passion, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Singers in Messiah do not take on dramatic roles, and there is no narration. The entire story is delivered by solo singing performances.
"Central Church has had a long and storied history of introducing musical excellence into the performing arts culture in the Tri-Cities," Johnson said.
"In addition to Messiah each December, the Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra have performed sacred works by Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Honegger, Mendelssohn, Mozart, John Rutter and Randall Thompson."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org