'Messiah' tradition ends soon at Richland church

There will be more than a few tears mixed with the usual profound joy tonight and Saturday at Central United Protestant Church.

Because of unavoidable budget cuts, a 31-year tradition comes to an end with the final two performances of Handel's Messiah by the church's Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra.

Christmas 2012 will surely be missing something in the Tri-Cities if CUP's Messiahis not performed.

"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," LeAnne Johnson of CUP told Herald reporter Dori O'Neal.

Seats are still available. Final performances will be 7 p.m. today and Saturday at the CUP church, 1124 Stevens Drive in Richland. Admission is $10 for adults and free to ages 18 and younger.

A recent letter to the editor reflects the depth of loss many people from the Mid-Columbia must feel.

Longtime Richland resident Gretchen Sewart wrote: "Singing Handel's Messiah each Christmas, in a huge choir -- that's what I'm grateful for.

"Over the past 31 years, Central Church of Richland has sponsored professional-quality performances of this masterpiece. As we prepare for our farewell performances, I am reflecting on how much this Christmas tradition has meant to me.

"Let me count the ways: Free lessons from highly credentialed conductors. Singing alongside excellent soloists and instrumentalists. New friends. Rehearsals filled with hard work, but also much laughter and joy. Experiencing Handel's talent for weaving Scripture into a tapestry of transcendent beauty. Welcoming the community to share a timeless classic. All the volunteers who made each year's production possible."

We cannot end this editorial better than she did her letter: "Most of all, I'm thankful for the Messiah himself. What a privilege it has been to perform art that reflects his majesty."