Barbara Magnuson of Santa Rosa, wearing a bright red sweater, had two reasons to be at the 32nd annual Redwood Empire Sing-Along of Handel's "Messiah."

Her 10-year-old grand-daughter, Ella Hoffman of Windsor, was going to sing onstage as one of two students representing the Santa Rosa Children's Chorus.

"I'm very excited," Magnuson said. "Who wouldn't be?"

Reason No. 2: Magnuson and her husband Ray are fond of the lengthy choral piece, written in 1741 and telling the life of Jesus Christ.

"We love it," Barbara said.

"It's such beautiful music, it just is," said Janet Smith of Santa Rosa, who came with her husband, Bob, accompanying the Magnusons.

A standing-room-only crowd packed the 550-seat auditorium at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park for Saturday night's holiday show, held for years at Santa Rosa High School.

"I think this is much better," said Elizabeth Olah of Healdsburg, settled into one the Spreckels Center's cushioned seats.

Olah and her daughter, Ellen, were attending their third "Messiah" sing-along.

Ellen Olah said she relished the piece "because I believe Jesus is Lord; it's such a blessing to come and hear music about him."

Ellen said she would sing; her mother said she is "a listener."

"There's so much power to it, especially at the end," Elizabeth Olah said. "The Hallelujah chorus is so exuberant."

The sing-along teamed the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus, directed by Dan Earl, with the Santa Rosa Chamber Orchestra, directed by Nicholas Xenelis.

Special guests are the Santa Rosa Junior College Concert Choir and Chamber Singers, directed by Jody Benecke, and the Santa Rosa High School Concert Choir, directed by Kira Bombace.

The event is a fund-raiser for the Santa Rosa Symphony League.

Earl, who has been part of the "Messiah" Sing-Along since it started, said this show was special because the four soloists — Alyssa Zainer Powers, Kira Bombace, Andrew Wheelwright and Harry Baechtel — are former students of his the Santa Rosa High.

Three generations of the Rackerby family were in the audience to support chamber orchestra violinist Tom Rackerby.

His mother and father, Carole and Jack Rackerby, were there with Tom's wife, Cathy, and their 11-year-old twin daughters, Annalise and Chiara.

Chiara, who also plays the violin, said she might sing along. Asked if she knows the words, Chiara said: "Sorta."

Annalise, a cello player, said she might sing, too.

Cathy Rackerby said it was good to get out of the house and away from all the presents.

The Messiah "gives us the real spirit of Christmas," she said.

How to attend

The Russian River Rodeo resumes Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at 23450 Moscow Road, Duncans Mills.

Admission is $12 for adults, $7 for those 60 and over and $5 for children 12 and under.