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Songs of holiday cheer

Winter is coming on and it’s time to mark Dec. 21 on your calendars for the annual holiday concert presented by the Oratorio Society of Queens. Conducted by Maestro David Close, this festive gathering will have you singing and clapping along with joyous Christmas carols and Chanukah favorites.

Some of the featured songs for this year’s program include the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah,” a brand new arrangement by Mack Wilberg of the beloved West Indian carol “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” and Maestro Close’s own arrangements of “A Christmas Cradle Song” and the Chanukah favorite “Ma’oz Tsur.”

A graduate of the Queens College music program, Close has been directing the OSQ, which celebrated its 80th anniversary last year, since 1970. “While there have been ‘Messiah,’ ‘Judas Maccabeus’ and carol presentations during the last 80−plus years, the concerts have been geared specifically to a holiday theme only since 1991,” he said.

Singing along with the chorus and Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens at the performance will be featured soloists Geraldine MacMillian, soprano; John Easterlin, tenor; and Vaughn Fritts, bass baritone. Occasionally, the audience will join.

“We’ve always included sing−along segments in the program,” said Close. “It is a thrill each and every time the whole gang joins in and raises the roof with ‘Adeste Fideles.’ The most memorable for me happened when the entire audience clapped along to ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain.’”

Since its inception in 1927, the Oratorio Society of Queens, formerly the Oratorio Society of Flushing, has been conducting winter and spring concerts for the public, with a brief hiatus during World War II. As the oldest performing arts institution in the borough, the Oratorio Society of Queens has been uplifting the spirits of Queens residents through the toughest of social and economic times.

“One of the things that make OSQ special is the broad range of its musical offerings,” said Close. “From African−American spirituals and American showtunes to Stravinsky’s ‘Symphony of Psalms’ and a Mozart or Verdi Requiem in between.”

Conceived by Mrs. Edward Keefe as Queens’ answer to Manhattan’s New York Oratorio Society, the group is based around the democratic ideas of good fellowship and openness. All who want to be a part of the Oratorio Society of Queens are encouraged to join — just meet them at the North Presbyterian Church, 25−33 154th Street, on Monday evenings and sing your heart out!

“The aspects of Queens that it brings to the choral world are its wonderful singers from all walks of life, and from all over our great borough, that come together to lift their voices in song in musical and social harmony,” said Close. “It’s just one of the many great things we have here in Queens that make this borough a really great place to live.”

For additional information on concert times, ticket prices, volunteering, donating or even just to listen to them practice, call 718−460−0726, or visit their Web site at www.queensoratorio.org.

If You Go

Oratorio Society of Queens’ Annual Holiday Concert

When: Dec. 21, 4 p.m.

Where: Queensborough Community College Performing Arts Center, 222−05 56th Ave., Bayside

Cost: $25 general; $20 seniors and students with ID; children, 12 and under, accompanied by an adult, free.

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