Vallejo Choral Society presents two December performances of The Messiah, the perennial holiday favorite by George Frideric Handel. The 45-voice Symphonic Choir will be joined by talented Bay Area soloists and instrumentalists when they perform Handel’s celebrated 1741 oratorio, featuring the famous Hallelujah Chorus.


Finale for Artistic Director Andrew Brown

With these concerts, Andrew Brown will be taking the VCS conductor’s podium for the last time, concluding a six-year tenure as Artistic Director to focus his energies on Pacific Boychoir Academy, where he serves as Director of Choral Studies. Brown departs on a high note, with the Society now in its 101st season and membership the largest it has been in decades—with Benicians comprising half of its singers.


“I will miss him much,” said Benicia native Barbara Partelow, who first joined Vallejo Choral Society in the 1960s when Dean Friedrich was the director. “Andrew is gifted as well as exacting, and he leads with humor and warmth,” she said. “He has great faith in us and selected challenging music—brave man!”


No doubt the Society has flourished under Brown’s leadership. There were just 19 singers when he was hired in 2012 to replace Cyril Deaconoff. In the years since, Brown has steadily developed the choir’s size and sound and delivered 18 ambitious concert programs, beginning with Britten’s Saint Nicolas Cantata, and culminating last June with a triumphant Centennial Season featuring another Britten masterwork, A Ceremony of Carols, as well as the Fauré Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Lauridsen’s Lux Æterna, complete with professional orchestra.

Courtesy photo

Andrew Brown

“I feel that as VCS grew I also grew,” he said, crediting Vallejo Choral Society for helping him achieve his personal goals as a professional director and conductor, and citing his favorite concerts—Reverie (March 2015), featuring the hauntingly beautiful Duruflé Requiem; Misa Criolla (May 2016), the joyous folkloric mass by Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez; and A Bridge of Song (March 2017), exploring human and cultural connections through the work of composers from Hungary, Finland, and Estonia. “These concerts have wonderful connection points for me.” He added that the community that VCS has become is so meaningful. “That’s what I love. There really is a VCS experience now.”


“It’s true that VCS grew with Andrew,” said Board President Laura Pyles. “The partnership we’ve built is based on that mutual respect and love for these great works. We have explored and found our way as a choir together.” Pyles credits Brown’s musicianship and ability to challenge the choir to transcend their perceived limitations. “One of the things I've really appreciated is the belief Andrew has in us as a choir.”


The Society recently completed a concerted search for Brown’s successor, and in January will welcome Derek Tam as VCS Artistic Director.


December Concert Details

The VCS chorus has been honing Handel’s Messiah since August and is poised to deliver thrilling performances December 8 and 9. In addition to a chamber orchestra of top-shelf Bay Area instrumentalists, the concerts will feature talented soloists performing the beloved Messiah arias and recitatives, including Soprano Sara LeMesh, who will sing the virtuoso coloratura aria Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion.


Vallejo Choral Society presents Handel’s Messiah on Saturday, December 8, at 7pm, at Community Congregational Church in Benicia, and on Sunday, December 9, at 3pm, at First Presbyterian Church in Vallejo. Tickets are available at For more information, visit, email or call 707.653.6827.