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The Oratorio Society of Virginia Michael Slon, Music Director

History of the Oratorio Society

In the fall of 1966, a small group of musicians shared their dream of performing major choral works in Charlottesville. After a year of organizing, auditioning, and rehearsing, The Oratorio Society of Charlottesville-Albemarle made its debut with a performance of Handel’s Messiah on March 8, 1968 in the auditorium of Albemarle High School. Led initially by Charles Bradley (1967-1970), the Oratorio Society has continued to grow under the outstanding leadership of its Music Directors and Conductors: Donald Loach (1971-1973, 1975-1982, 1993-2000); Dingwall Fleary (1973-1975); Judith Gary (1982-1990); Paul Hill (Guest Conductor 1982-1990, Music Director/Conductor 1990-1993); L. Thomas Vining (2000-2011) and Michael Slon (Music Director 2011-Present).

In 2008 the Society changed its name to The Oratorio Society of Virginia in order to reflect its membership and the audience it serves.

From All Walks of Life

Chorus members are of all ages and from all walks of life. All have considerable choral singing experience, including major metropolitan ensembles such as the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and the Cathedral Choral Society of Washington, D.C. Some are professional musicians and music teachers. They come together to perform choral masterworks and to share with their audiences the genius and inspiration of the composers and works performed.

The Oratorio Society hires outstanding professional soloists for its performances. Many have performance careers on a national and international level. Many concerts are accompanied by a full orchestras composed of superb musicians recruited from a wide geographic area.


Since its founding, The Oratorio Society has performed many of the greatest oratorios and choral masterworks of all time, including works by Bach, Brahms, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Rutter, Vaughan Williams, and Verdi. Click here to see a list of major works we have performed.

In honor of its 30th anniversary, The Oratorio Society commissioned a work to be created by former Poet Laureate Rita Dove and composer Walter Ross. The resulting piece, titled The Pleasure’s in Walking Through: A Song of the Seasons, was premiered by the Oratorio Society in March 1998 with Ms. Dove as the soprano soloist.


The Oratorio Society performs at local venues, including Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia, The V. Earl Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center at Piedmont Virginia Community College, The Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center at Charlottesville High School and at The Paramount Theater, an elegantly restored theater on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, where our annual Christmas concert has become a Charlottesville holiday tradition.