The Santa Barbara Choral Society is celebrating 65 years of music-making this season, and 20 years under the baton of artistic director and conductor JoAnne Wasserman.

English composer Francis Potts at work — you can bet he knows the score.

English composer Francis Potts at work — you can bet he knows the score.

Wasserman will lead the 100-voice Choral Society, along with guest soloists soprano Celeste Tavera, mezzo-soprano Diana Tash, tenor Ben Brecher, bass DeAndre Simmons and the Santa Barbara Choral Society orchestra, in a performance of Part One of Georg Friedrich Handel’s incomparable oratorio The Messiah.

After the intermission, the society’s traditional Holiday Concert will continue with season-oriented pieces by Francis Pott (“Balulalow”), Alan Bullard (“Scots Nativity”), Randol Bass (“Gloria”) and John Rutter (“Carol of the Magi”), plus several traditional holiday carols.

The program will be performed twice: at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in San Roque Catholic Church, 3200 Calle Cedro.

The Messiah apparently started out slow with audiences, but after more than 2½ centuries of steady acceleration, its momentum is now pretty much irresistible. You don’t have to be a music major to appreciate it; in fact, it helps if you aren’t.

It is the only oratorio most people have ever heard, but once they have heard that, there’s no need for them to start looking for a better one because there aren’t any. Unfortunately, Part One doesn’t include the exquisite aria, “I know that my redeemer liveth,” but we can’t have everything.

Pott (born 1957) is an English composer, but choral music is only one of the arrows in his quivver, albeit a particular effective one. He is a pianist and organist himself, and his compositions for those instruments are among his best known. His setting of “Balulalow” is hauntingly beautiful.

Tickets to this concert are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, or $20 at all times for seniors and students. Group discounts are available. Tickets are available at Chaucer’s Books, by phone at 805.965.6577 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.