More than eighty years ago Yuba college instructor, Ralph B. van Courtright brought together a group of singers and instrumentalists from the Yuba-Sutter area to give a Christmas presentation of George Frederic Handel's oratorio, Messiah. Each Christmas season, by popular demand, this well known oratorio conposed in 1741 continues to be performed by the Oratorio Chorus and symphony orchestra.
Messiah is traditionally the beginning of the holiday season in the Yuba-Sutter area and was first presented here by Mr. Ralph B. van Courtright in December of 1939 in what is now the Marysville Auditorium. Each year this well known oratorio, based on the Christmas story and texts from the Bible, continues to be presented by the Yuba-Sutter Oratorio Society Orchestra and Chorus. "Mr. Van" directed Messiah for the next seventeen years and was responsible for founding the Yuba-Sutter Oratorio Society to ensure continued support for Messiah performances. Traditional recitatives and choruses have been presented by the Oratorio Chorus and orchestra from all three parts of Messiah.
Over the years many changes have occurred within the Oratorio Society and with the performing groups it sponsors. The society itself has become more formalized. It is now governed by a board of directors which meets regularly. The small orchestra which accompanied Messiah has grown into the Yuba-Sutter Symphony. A harpsichord and a baroque trumpet have been purchased by the Society for increased authenticity.
In addition to Messiah presentation, the Oratorio Society has sponsored other concerts, including a spring Pops Concert, a fall Orchestral Concert, and a Young Artist Showcase featuring the winners of the Young Artist Solo Competition. An annual 4th of July concert is at 10:00 am at the Town Center in Yuba City.
In 2012 the Oratorio Society added another concert, Messiah for Kids. This concert is presented the same weekend as Messiah.