Free concert is made possible by the McCaslin Fund.

One of the most noted works of a famous composer will be presented Saturday evening in Pratt, without charge to the public.

The Wichita Choral Society will present "Messiah" through the generosity of the late Glenn M. McCaslin, who established a fund with the First United Methodist Church to bring live musical performances to the people of Pratt.

George Frideric Handel composed the English-language oratorio in 1741, and it has become one of the best known and frequently performed choral works in Western music. It was intended for the Easter and Lenten season, but has also become a part of Christmas tradition.

The Society will perform the Christmas portion, relating to the promise of Jesus' birth and his nativity, and selections from the second and third parts, his death and resurrection.

The audience should expect an outstanding performance from the chorus, guest soloists, including Pratt's Nancy Kerr, and a small ensemble from the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, according to director Shawn Chastain.

Chastain regards the performance as a homecoming.

His great-grandfather, Frank Lockert settled in Coats, where he and his wife ran the telephone switchboard for 50 years. His grandparents, Willard and Bea Chastain, farmed in the Coats area. His father, Phil, graduated from Coats High School and Pratt Community College, and returned to Pratt with his wife, Jane, in 1972 to serve as pastor of the First United Methodist Church until 1981.

Shawn Chastain attended Southwest Elementary and Liberty Middle School and his older brother Thane is a Pratt High graduate.

He praised the Pratt community for its "rich heritage of supporting the arts," noting that one of his first memories of attending live concerts was through the Pratt Community Concert Association, of which Phil Chastain served as president.

He was also acquainted with McCaslin, who grew up in Pratt, and always considered it to be his home, even during his years in the army during World War II and his job as a military publication writer for the government. McCaslin returned to Pratt after retirement and lived here until his death in 1993.

Chastain also has connections to the soprano soloist. Nancy Kerr was his youth choir director and a tremendous musical influence, he said.

Kerr has performed the soprano solos in Messiah performances with the Reno Chorale Society, in addition to the Wichita Chorale Society.

"It will be a rewarding experience to participate in this event which features Handel's music and Glenn McCaslin's generosity," she said.

The Wichita Choral Society, which is performing "Messiah" for the 67th Christmas season, is made up of about 85 "outstanding, very talented, dedicated singers," who must be in good shape to perform the difficult chorus numbers, Chastain said. About 60 singers will perform in Pratt.

Chastain has been director of the choral society since 2001. He is the executive coordinator of fine arts for Wichita Public Schools, overseeing 250 teachers in 85 schools. He has played a key role in developing the Education Edge Fine Arts Gift Fund, a non-profit foundation that has raised nearly $2 million to help support art in the classroom.

If you go

Date: Dec. 15

Place: First United Methodist Church

Time: 7 p.m.

Charge: None