$15 per ticket

December 17th and 18th, 2018 at 7pm

Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park
205 E Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601

The International Music Foundation presents:


A Chicago holiday tradition since 1976, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah brings together a world-class conductor and soloists, an all-volunteer orchestra of local professionals and amateur musicians and thousands of chorus/audience in a thrilling performance of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah.

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The libretto of Messiah was given to George Frideric Handel by a patron, Charles Jennens, but the biblical passages were probably chosen by Jennens’ private chaplain, a Rev. Pooley. Jennens wanted it presented during Passion Week, although today it is most frequently performed during Advent. Handel composed the oratorio in just 25 days, between August 22 and September 14, 1741, a remarkable achievement.

According to contemporary reports, Handel’s popularity in London at the time was dimming. He accepted an invitation from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to present a season of oratorio performances in Dublin, which began in December 1741. Handel decided to first test his Messiah in public at the New Musick Hall on April 13, 1742, seven months after completion. It was immediately acclaimed, and the next year Messiah was performed in London at Covent Garden.

The music of Handel comes to life in Chicago every Christmas with his magnificent Messiah performed by an audience of thousands, featuring world-class soloists and a full orchestra of local amateur and professional musicians, all volunteering their time and talent.

This season marks the 43rd year of The Do-It-Yourself Messiah. This Chicago tradition began when the late Al Booth, founder of the International Music Foundation, brought to America the musical heritage of the parishioners of a small country church in southern England. You – the chorus, the conductor, the soloists, and the orchestra – will fill this hall with glorious sounds first heard in the New Musick Hall on Fishamble Street, Dublin, in 1742.


What is Handel’s Messiah?
Written in 1741, Messiah is George Frideric Handel’s best-known oratorio and presents the scriptural account of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Though written by Handel for the Easter season, Messiah has become more commonly performed as a Christmas-time event. Typically, Messiah is performed in a concert venue by professional musicians, soloists, and a chorus.
What is the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
The Do-It-Yourself Messiah is an annual event in Chicago, introduced in 1976 by Al Booth and produced by the organization he founded, the International Music Foundation. In it, the music of Messiah is provided by Chicago-area musicians who volunteer their talents to provide orchestral support both for the professional soloists, as well as – in a surprising twist – a chorus composed entirely of the members of the audience!
When and where is the Do-It-Yourself Messiah this year?
Celebrating its 42nd annual performance in 2017, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah will take place at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park on Monday, December 18th at 7:00 pm and Tuesday, December 19th, at 7:00 pm.
How do I get to the Harris Theater?
The Harris Theater for Music and Dance is located at 205 E. Randolph Drive at the north end of Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Driving directions to local parking and directions using Metra and CTA are available at the Harris Theater website.
What makes the Do-It-Yourself Messiah different from other productions of Messiah?
The Do-It-Yourself Messiah invites all attendees to participate in the production of the oratorio, by stepping into the role of the chorus along with over one thousand other amateur participants. Attendees are encouraged to sing all the chorus portions of Messiah (excepting those the conductor may choose to exclude).
Can anyone attend the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
Because of the length and nature of the event, it is not suitable for young children. Otherwise, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah is open to everyone with a valid ticket for the event.
How do I get tickets to attend the Do-It-Yourself Messiah? - NEEDS UPDATING
Tickets are available for purchase through the Harris Theater box office. They may be purchased starting Noon on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. To buy tickets: On-line, go to at or after noon on November 18 (Theater handling fee will apply): or By phone, call the Harris Theater Box Office at 312-334-7777 at or after noon on November 18. (Theater handling fee will apply): or In person, from the Harris Theater Box Office at 205 E. Randolph from noon on November 18 (no handling fee)
Is there a charge for tickets to the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
Yes. Tickets for the 2015 Do-It-Yourself Messiah cost $15 each.
Can I still attend if I have no ticket for the event?
You need a ticket to enter the Harris Theater. In past years, individuals wishing to participate who were unable to obtain a ticket before the event were invited to wait in a “stand-by” line until shortly before show time. Tickets returned to the facility by ticket-holders unable to attend the event (“turn-back tickets”) were provided to those waiting in line on a first-come, first served basis. In cases where empty seats were still available as the event was about to start, the facility offers “Rush tickets” to fill those open seats. They are “cash only” tickets – no credit card purchases – and they cost $15. No guarantees of seating can be made for those who cannot obtain a ticket before show time, though in the past all who wanted to participate have been accommodated. If you arrive at the Harris Theater without a ticket for the event, ask the staff at the theater to direct you to the standby area for those without a ticket.
Are there qualifications to participate in the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
No. The Do-It-Yourself Messiah is open to the general public. No auditions or other requirements need to be met in order to come and sing – though a decent voice and knowledge of the work helps!
Do I need to read music to sing in the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
Not exactly, but it is rather important that you be able to follow music. In a section with hundreds of singers singing the same part, it is important to sing in unison with your fellows. This requires being familiar enough with your copy of the Messiah score to recognize how long notes should be sung, and at what pitch. If you cannot directly read the score, we recommend practicing with our choral tutor CDs.
What do I need in order to prepare for the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
At a minimum, you will need a personal copy of the score of Messiah to participate meaningfully in the Do-It-Yourself Messiah. The conductor will assume you have a copy of the edition from the G. Schirmer classical music distribution company – the “Schirmer Edition” of the score. Copies of the score will be available for purchase at the Harris Theater on the night of the event. To purchase in advance, see retailers listed on this page or try your local library! We recommend you become familiar with the choruses of Messiah in order to maximize your enjoyment of the Do-It-Yourself Messiah, and the enjoyment of those sitting near you! Practicing with choral tutor CDs or similar aids can build your confidence and singing accuracy.
How is the audience/chorus seated at the Do-It-Yourself Messiah?
All tickets are for general admission open seating. The theater is divided into four sections, and signage in the lobby will direct you to the correct section for your voice. Each singer seats him/herself based upon which of the four vocal parts (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, or Bass) he or she will sing. All basses are seated in the audience in the sections facing the right-hand side of the stage (house right). Tenors are seated to the left of the basses, and altos to the left of the tenors, sopranos sit in the sections to the left of the altos, facing the left-hand side of the stage. Within your section, seating is unassigned. Feel free to take any open seat in your section. The Harris Theater is an intimate 1,500 seat venue with excellent sightlines and acoustics throughout the house.
Which part of the Messiah score should I plan to sing?
The score is organized into four vocal parts. In general, women with a high vocal range should sing the Soprano part; those with a lower range should sing the Alto part. Men with a high vocal range should sing the Tenor part; those with a lower range should sing the Bass part. The Messiah has a fairly high Bass part; those with a moderate (baritone) vocal range may find the Bass part easier to sing than the Tenor part. Similarly, the Soprano part may be high for some mid-range women’s voices; mezzo-sopranos will likely be most comfortable singing the Alto part.
Do I need to know all the music in the Messiah score to participate?
No. The chorus (the audience, in this case) is only responsible for singing the choruses from Messiah. Portions of the score marked as ‘Recitative’ or ‘Air’ are sung from the stage by the professional soloists. For reasons of brevity (and due to some choral meltdowns in past years), the conductor may choose to exclude certain choruses from the Do-It-Yourself Messiah. In the past few years, the following choruses have been excluded:


He Trusted in God
Let All the Angels of God
The Lord Gave the Word
Their Sound is Gone Out
Let Us Break their Bonds Asunder
But Thanks Be to God

Is the Do-It-Yourself Messiah a lot of fun?
YOU BET![Our thanks to Mike Hammond for compiling our FAQ’s.]


The 2018 Do-It-Yourself Messiah takes place on December 17th and 18th at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance located at 205 E. Randolph Drive (Randolph, just East of Michigan Avenue).  The Harris Theater is an intimate 1,500 seat venue with excellent sightlines and acoustics throughout the house.

Tickets cost $15 and may be purchased starting at  Noon on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

To buy tickets:

  • On-line, go to at or after noon on November 15 (theater handling fee will apply)
  • By phone, call the Harris Theater Box Office at 312-334-7777 at or after noon on November 15 (theater handling fee will apply)
  • In person, from the Harris Theater Box Office at 205 E. Randolph from noon on November 15 (no handling fee)

Because of the length and nature of the event, it is not suitable for children under the age of 6.

Any patron, irrespective of age, must have a ticket to enter the Harris Theater.

Seating is general admission by vocal range.  

Doors to the house open at 6:15 p.m.

Please bring a copy of the Messiah score so you can participate.  Scores will also be available for purchase in the lobby at the Harris Theater and cost $10.00.


The International Music Foundation, in cooperation with the Yamaha Corporation and Hal Leonard, Inc., has made it easy for you to enjoy the sing-along experience to the maximum.

There are 17 choruses in the Messiah- and they are all glorious! And to make the most of them, we’ve produced a series of Choral Tutors to help you learn your part- soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

The Choral Tutors are available in compact disc format. Each recording highlights your part. All you have to do is listen to your part while following along in the score, then sing-along to get familiar with ALL parts of the Messiah (G. Schirmer edition).


The Choral Tutors CD and score are available from:

Handel’s Do-It-Yourself Messiah Choral Tutor lets singers create family or community productions of Handel’s holiday classic.

Parts for 17 Messiah choruses have been digitally recorded (accompanied by the Yamaha Clavinova), and follow the G. Schirmer edition of Handel’s masterpiece.

Each voicing (soprano, alto, tenor, bass–SABT) has its own audio.

Voicings are sold separately, or in specially priced groups of four (one of each voicing).
Performers Music and Music Dispatch have these CDs (not to mention the Messiah score) available at the following suggested retail prices:

  • #00505051 Soprano CD $18
  • #00505053 Alto CD $18
  • #00505055 Tenor CD $18
  • #00505057 Bass CD $18

G.Schirmer Complete Vocal Score – Handel’s Messiah:

  • #50323760 Complete Vocal Score $8.99

Quantity Discounts Available

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