``We're a midsize choir, but we're known for clarity, precision and the musicality of our presentations. People are always surprised at the quality,'' says Willoughby-Miller, who acknowledges that ``there's a real barrier between volunteer choruses and professional choirs.''
Willoughby-Miller founded the Choral Society 16 seasons ago, mainly because she was weary of losing her best singers as soon as they finished the school's two-year program. She has lived in Montgomery County for 20 years.
The community college underwrites and sponsors the chorus, in addition to its student choir. ``The president and the board really look at us as a tool to deliver the message that a community can have quality arts,'' says Willoughby-Miller, who also books the college's full calendar of events, including the Trinity Irish Dance Company, St. Olaf's Choir, Quink from Holland and the Waverly Consort.
The Choral Society gives five programs a season, has a chamber choir it takes on international tours, and is working on its first CD. Major works performed in recent seasons include a Charpentier Mass, the Monteverdi Vespers and Haydn's Creation.
Because funding is secure, Willoughby-Miller says she's free to program precisely what she thinks best for her group, and is not tied to the box office. ``For us, the Messiah isn't a fundraiser - it's not our Nutcracker - it's a spiritual piece.''
Willoughby-Miller studied at Temple University and currently directs the award-winning children's choir of Temple Preparatory Division's Gifted Center for Young Musicians. At Temple years back, she got to know Marietta Simpson, the distinguished mezzo-soprano who will make her debut with her friend Willoughby-Miller's chorus this weekend. Laura Heimes will sing Messiah's soprano solos; Daniel Pincus takes the tenor part; the bass is Kevin Deas.
Choral Society of Montgomery County performs twice this weekend. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, $9 ages 8-12; not recommended for ages under 8. Phone: 215-641-6518.
* Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, St Martin's Lane at W Willow Grove Ave, Chestnut Hill, at 8 p.m. Saturday.
* Montgomery County Community College, Science Center Theater, Route 202 and Morris Road, Blue Bell, at 3 p.m. Sunday.