Oratorio Society



Ninety-four 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), and its current director, Joel Navarro.

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.

"Singing with the Calvin Oratorio Society continues to be a richly rewarding experience for our members who look sincerely for spiritual upliftment and musical quality. I know of no other choir of this kind in West Michigan that has successfully blended faith, community, tradition, and musical enterprise throughout its long and blessed history. To be part of this choir is to experience not only the genius and inspiration of the composers we perform, but also to experience the majesty and presence of the triune God. It is an altogether fabulous and uniquely humbling experience to be a part of this gathering of singers and believers."

-Joel Navarro, Music Director

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


Our History

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).