'We sing and we drink beer' — and this weekend, the Winnipeg Beer Choir takes on Handel's Messiah

The Winnipeg Beer Choir is adding what is possibly the most famous and popular piece of choral music of all time to its repertoire.

Brew-quaffing singers plan spirited rendition of the choral classic

Winnipeg Beer Choir co-directors Ian Campbell, left, and Katy Harmer enjoy a beverage. The choir is hosting a sing-along performance of Handel's Messiah at Young United Church Saturday. (Submitted by Winnipeg Beer Choir)

The Winnipeg Beer Choir is adding what is possibly the most famous and popular piece of choral music of all time to its repertoire.

This weekend, the suds-swilling singers are tackling Handel's Messiah.

The Winnipeg Beer Choir has been gathering every couple months for the last year — and yes, the group's name pretty much tells you what you need to know.

"It's exactly what you think it is: we get together, we sing and we drink beer," choir co-director Katy Harmer told CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa.

Normally they meet at Fools & Horses coffee shop on Broadway, but drinking beer and singing loudly seems to have struck a chord with Winnipeggers (who knew?), and the group expanding to Young United Church for this weekend's sing-along Messiah performance.

Balthasar Denner's portrait of George Frideric Handel, who composed Messiah. 'It's a lot of fun to sing and this will be a great chance to try it out,' says Winnipeg Beer Choir co-director Katy Harmer. (Wikimedia Commons)

With its booming score and joyous "hallelujah" chorus, German composer George Frideric Handel's Messiah continues to be a musical rite of the holiday season, more than 250 years after it was composed.

Harmer says the group usually sings drinking songs, naturally, and pop classics like Sweet Caroline — but has also put their stamp on more traditional fare.

"Last year we changed the words to Jingle Bells — we sang Jingle Beers," she explained.

But can they handle Handel? Absolutely, says Harmer.

"We've got a soloist, we've got strings, and we've got a trumpet and the organ at Young United — and we've got beer," she said.

It's also audience participatory.

"Everybody who comes is part of the choir — if you show up, you're in the choir," Harmer said.

"It's a beautiful piece of music to sit and listen to. It's a lot of fun to sing and this will be a great chance to try it out."

The choir has partnered with local brewer Torque, which will be providing the refreshments for the concert, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 online and at the door.

Sheet music will be provided by the Manitoba Choral Association so all singers need to bring is their thirst for the classics and beer, says Harmer.

Winnipeg Beer Choir belts its out

3 years ago
This weekend the Winnipeg Beer Choir is tackling Handel's Messiah. 0:34

"This is very low stress. There's no stage there's no performances, no stage fright … it's just a lot of fun," she said, adding beer drinking is not required at the event.

Those who enjoy the harmonic vocal styling of beer drinkers but don't want to drink are welcome too.

"Drinking is not required, but it's sort of the reason to come out."

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With files from Janice Grant


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