Uh oh...

It appears that you're using a severely outdated version of Safari on Windows. Many features won't work correctly, and functionality can't be guaranteed. Please try viewing this website in Edge, Mozilla, Chrome, or another modern browser. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused!

Read More
Central Little Rock
Get directions
Central Culture 1

Art Porter Singers Hold 40th Performance of Handel’s Messiah


In December 1977, year-old choir Art Porter Singers performed George Frideric Handel’s Messiah for the first time at the historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Little Rock. Decades later, the choir continues Little Rock native Art Porter, Sr.’s legacy by performing the piece.

On Dec. 17, Art Porter Singers will present its 40th-anniversary performance of Messiah at Bethel A.M.E. Church at 5 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public.

Porter, who died in 1993, was a music educator at what was then Horace Mann High School, and he was an “exceptional musician,” said Sterling Ingram, director of Art Porter Singers.

Sterling is also president of the board of directors for Art Porter Music Education, a foundation that aims to promote and sustain the legacy of Art Porter, Sr. and his son, the late renowned jazz musician Art Porter, Jr.

In addition to sponsoring scholarships and a music program for aspiring musicians, the foundation commemorates Porter Sr.’s legacy through Art Porter Singers’ annual free-of-charge performance of Messiah at Bethel A.M.E., where Porter Sr. served as organist and where many individuals heavily involved in the civil rights movement attended.


“A lot of people would identify [Porter Sr.] as jazz, but he was an outstanding educator, having taught in the Little Rock School District and also at Philander Smith College,” Ingram said. “I would say that as it applies to the choir, he was really kind of community-oriented. He chose to stay in Arkansas, even though he had opportunities to do some broader things.”

Ingram, a former student of Porter Sr.’s and former Art Porter Singers choir member, has been choir director since Porter Sr.’s death. Ingram was a part of the group that first performed Messiah at Bethel in 1977.

“It is, of course, a serious work of classical music that is really easy to listen to by the ordinary person because the text of all of the songs are taken from the King James Bible,” said Ingram, who also noted the work tells the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Normally, when we perform that, we will have the text as part of the program printed out.”

Though Messiah is three-parts long — part 1 is usually performed around Christmastime, with parts 2 and 3 heard around Easter, Ingram said — Art Porter Singers gives audiences a taste of all three parts.

“We just try to take a little bit of all of it so [that] we tell the complete story at this particular time,” Ingram said.

While the typical makeup of Art Porter Singers is between 30 and 40 people, the number of vocalists who perform Messiah increases for the holiday-season performance.

“When we do Messiah, we’ll have between 40 and 50 people,” Ingram said. “Sometimes we have persons who come from out of state or out of town who have been members of the choir before.”

Outside of the holiday season, Art Porter Singers perform a variety of music, including Negro spirituals, pop music, Broadway selections, jazz pieces and more.

The group only does one performance of Messiah each year, and while no two performances are the same, Ingram said he hopes audience members are always moved.

“I hope that this year, and each year, they go away saying, ‘Goodness, I really enjoyed hearing them sing. I’m glad that I came,’” Ingram said. “If they do that, I’m satisfied.”

For more information, visit

Meet the

Learn more about .

A little about .

Syd Hayman is a public relations account executive at The Design Group in Little Rock. A native Arkansan, Syd can often be found working toward completing her yearly reading goal or creating jewelry in her free time. Syd also serves as a board member of the Arkansas Pro Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists and the Celebrate! Maya Project.

Read more stories by Syd Hayman

Like this story? Read more from Syd Hayman


Join the Conversation

Leave a Comment

One response to “Art Porter Singers Hold 40th Performance of Handel’s Messiah”

  1. […] Cash and Glen Campbell all made the first class. Soul and R&B singer Al Green and jazz musician Art Porter, Sr. Songwriters Wayland Holyfield and Randy Goodrum also made the list. Holyfield has written songs […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Submit a photo

We select one featured photo per week, but we show many more in our gallery. Be sure to fill out all the fields in order to have yours selected.
  • Accepted file types: jpg, png.
Regions Topics

What are you looking for?

Explore Arkansas

Central Arkansas

Little Rock, Conway, Searcy, Benton, Heber Springs

Northwest Arkansas

Fayetteville, Bentonville, Springdale, Fort Smith

South Arkansas

Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, Arkadelphia

Explore by Topic