About RCU

Handel’s Messiah has given joy for over 280 years to audiences worldwide. The Rockford Choral Union adds to this tradition with over 75 years of presenting this oratorio. Each year, this gift to the community fills audiences with emotion for both the beauty of the piece and the pride of hearing friends and colleagues from the community bring this glorious work to life. 

Over 200 RCU performances and going strong!

Today, musicians from over sixty area churches and schools from as far away as Janesville, Lena, Dixon, Rochelle, DeKalb, the Chicago suburbs, Belvidere, Roscoe, Beloit, Rockton and all across the Rockford area come to participate in this annual, choral event. About RCUMichael Beert is now in his fifth year as the music director of the Rockford Choral Union. Michael has been involved as cellist with the Choral Union since 1985 and has become its seventh conductor after the retirement of Nat Bauer in 2017.  Michael has been playing cello for over 50 years. He has played with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra for over 25 years and has been Principal Cello for the past eleven seasons.

His conducting experiences include guest appearances with the Illinois Philharmonic, the Illinois Valley Philharmonic, the music director of the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra for ten years and the conductor of the Rock Valley College and Community Orchestra and the Park District’s Summer Pops Orchestra.  Mike has been a past recipient of the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center’s “Starr of Excellence Award”.

Mike has his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Cello Performance from Roosevelt University and has extensive post-graduate courses in String Pedagogy, Cello and Bass, Music History/Literature and Conducting from Northern Illinois University and the University of Memphis. He studied conducting with Steven Squires from NIU and Roosevelt University.

Mike is retired as Professor of Music and Academic Chair of Music and Art at Rock Valley College. He is married to Concertmistress Rachel Handlin, and they have a daughter, Aria, who is a violinist and vocalist.
About RCU
Singers of all ages commit to six Sunday afternoon rehearsals in October and November and two concerts over the Thanksgiving weekend to perform Handel’s classical, hallowed Messiah. Many patrons start their Christmas holiday season with this true Christmas message – the life of Christ from the Cradle to the Cross, and, ultimately, to the Crown. New members are always welcome. Please contact us for more information.

Rockford Choral Union receives no public funding and is managed entirely by volunteers who each year must raise approximately $25,000 to meet the expenses of presenting two concerts of Messiah.  These expenses include a regional choir directed by a professional conductor, a chamber orchestra of top area professional musicians, a pipe organist, a harpsichordist, a trumpet soloist, four internationally-acclaimed vocal soloists and a variety of logistical issues that challenge us every year.  We are grateful to the many people, churches, businesses and foundations that provide significant financial support to the Rockford Choral Union through their sponsorships, memorials and special gifts.