After a third of a century of inviting the audience to join the performance, the 33rd annual Redwood Empire "Sing-Along Messiah" once again gave music lovers cause to shout "Hallelujah!"
Dan Earl, who has conducted the "Sing-Along Messiah" for all but one of those 33 years, led more than 200 singers onstage in Saturday night's concert at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park.
But the performers didn't have to do it alone. A sold-out audience of about 500 people sang along, by invitation.
Ushers handed out songbooks as ticket-holders filed in and found seats in the soprano, alto, bass or tenor sections. When cued by Earl, the entire audience rose and sang.
"We can sing some parts, when we're invited," said audience member Mike McIntosh of Rohnert Park with a grin, "and maybe we can hum a little, too."
Earl seemed pleased with the audience's performance. He turned and said from the stage, "You should be proud."
Before the concert, Earl said the experience of performers and audience singing together has a unique charm.
"It's amazing, really. It brings people together. You're sitting next to someone you don't know, in many cases, and you're sharing this," he said.
For audience participation, the high point was the famed "Hallelujah" chorus, with voices filling the entire hall.
"Every time it comes to the 'Hallelujah' chorus, it's a much different sound," Earl said.