Charlotte Kasl describes one section of one performance of Handel's "Messiah" as "an ecstatic moment" in her life.
She was 12 when her parents took her to an auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
At one particular point, it changes from the contralto to the soprano. The orchestra moves to a higher key, and as she remembers it the "soprano, like honey, cruises in on a higher note."
"That music is magic to me," she said.
This Sunday, she'll participate in Missoula's 22nd annual all-volunteer performance of "Messiah" for the 16th time.
She's not a trained singer – she has a master's in piano and a doctorate for her psychology practice – but she loves the "deeply felt" spirit of an amateur choir.
She recalled the first year they met the afternoon of the concert and did one rehearsal about an hour before.
She says they've had many different conductors over the years, and learned a lot from each.
David Edmonds, director of choral studies at UM, is returning for his fourth year.
"He brings spirit and such skill, such knowledge of music," she said. She said he "really teaches you voice production," so the chorus, a mix of local professionals, UM students and volunteers, get rich tones.
Kasl will be in the front row, holding a hand-bound copy of "The Messiah" she received as an award at her church in 1954.
The annual concert benefits both the International Choral Festival and the UM School of Music.
Anne Marie Brinkman, the festival executive director, said it raises about $7,000 to $8,000 through donations at the door and the volunteer singers, who pledge to pull it at least $85 each.
The festival, held every three years and next scheduled for July 13-16, 2016, brings vocal groups from around the world to Missoula for performances throughout the city.
It intends to use its proceeds from the "Messiah" concert to start a new youth choir, called Bella Armonia, Italian for "beautiful harmony."
In prior years, the International Choral Festival has assembled a local youth choir about six weeks before the event.
Due to a combination of factors, there wasn't a choir last time.
So organizers want to assemble a year-round choir of students in grades 6 through 10. They hope to recruit 50 to 60 students as a start, and expand the age range if it catches on.
Edmonds will act as artistic director and conductor.
A large segment of UM's proceeds will help send the student Chamber Chorale and its 37 singers to Seattle in March. They'll perform at the Northwest conference for the American Choral Directors Association.
The student ensemble will open the "Messiah" concert with three selections: "Bogoroditse Devo" by composer Arvo Pärt; an arrangement of "Idumea" by Richard Bjella; and "Good Night, Dear Heart" by Dan Forrest.
Edmonds, who leads this group as well, said it's the first time a UM choir has been selected for invitation to the concert, and it's one of only five college choirs in the Northwest that will attend.
More than half of the chorale are music majors. Participation is a requirement for music majors, and may also fulfill a requirement for non-majors.
Participation is intensive. The class meets three times a week plus a sectional time outside of class.
The group sings at half a dozen events per semester, including concerts, special events and athletic events.
At the conference, the music majors can attend interest sessions on choral music and see choirs from around the country, all of which were selected through a competitive audition process.