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Oratorio Society

Academics / Departments & Programs / Music / Ensembles / Oratorio Society

One hundred and two years ago, the Calvin Oratorio Society made its debut with the first of its now traditional Christmas season performances of Handel's Messiah.

Since that time, the Calvin Oratorio Society has grown under the outstanding leadership of its music directors: Reese Veatch (1920–1923), Seymour Swets (1923–1967), Harold Geerdes (1967–1981), Howard Slenk (1981–1998), Pearl Shangkuan (1998–2003), Joel Navarro (2003–2014), and Sean Ivory.

Chorus members are of all ages and from all walks of life; all have considerable choral singing experience, and some are professional musicians and music teachers.

The Oratorio Society performs at the Covenant Fine Arts Center Auditorium on the Calvin's campus, near the intersection of Burton and the East Beltline.

2021 Season

This year we are offering a very special performance of Handel’s Messiah, Greatest Hits.  It’s all our (and hopefully your) favorite parts of the Messiah wrapped up in about an hour and a half performance.  We’ll still have a talented ensemble, orchestra, and soloists, it will just be a little shorter than previous years.  For us, it’s a year of rebuilding, it’s a live performance during a global pandemic, it’s an effort to be safe while honoring a long-standing Calvin tradition. 

We have put together a great team to lead the season, with Pearl Shangkuan returning as interim Music Director.  Along with Pearl, we will have John Varineau serving as Guest Conductor, Randy VanWingerden as Assistant Director and Lisa Funk as Administrative Manager.  

The performance will take place at the Covenant Fine Arts Center on Friday, December 3 and Saturday, December 4. Tickets are available through the Box Office: Calvin University | Ticketing - Handel's Messiah 2021 (  We hope you’ll join us!

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Explore Oratorio Society

Since its founding, the Oratorio Society has performed many of the greatest oratorios of our time. In addition to the annual performances of Handel's Messiah, the Society's performances have ranged from a staged version of Mendelssohn's Elijah to a United States premiere of MISA 2000, a work by celebrated Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab.

Other highlights of past performances include works by Bach (Easter Oratorio, St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion), Brahms (Requiem), Handel (Saul), Haydn (Creation), Mendelssohn (St. Paul), Mozart (Exultate), Rutter (Requiem), and Vaughan Williams (Five Mystical Songs).


Thank you for your interest. Audition information will be posted at a later date. Please check back.

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