Handel’s Messiah

Mary with haloSat., November 4, 7:00 p.m., Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Portland

Sun., November 5, 3:00 p.m., St. John the Baptist Church, Brunswick

Beloved by audiences since its 1743 sold-out debut, Handel’s Messiah is a pillar of Western music – a masterpiece that must be experienced live. Join Oratorio Chorale, the Maine Chamber Ensemble and acclaimed soloists Elisabeth Marshall, soprano, Laura Atkinson, mezzo, Matthew Anderson, tenor, and David Tinervia, bass, and experience Messiah this season.

Messiah has the distinction of being the oldest work of music to be presented every year since its first performance. For 275 years, Handel’s Messiah has been performed at least once, and it is now heard hundreds of times annually around the globe.

Messiah was premiered five days before Easter in Dublin in 1742. The audience was enormously enthusiastic about the new work, but when Handel brought Messiah to London’s Covent Garden Theater the following March, it was not as well received. Handel tried again seven years later, when he programmed the work as part of a charitable concert to raise funds for London’s Foundling Hospital. More than 1,000 people attended the performance and this time the work struck a chord with the public. After this London triumph, Handel conducted yearly revivals and Messiah became an enduring favorite.

And yet, despite its popularity, there is no definitive Messiah.  It was standard practice in the eighteenth century to remove, substitute, or re-voice certain sections based on the soloists and forces available, as well as to ornament and improvise repeated melodies.  Moreover, Handel was famous for tinkering and tweaking his works every time there was a revival performance.  As a result, any one movement might have three to five different versions.

“One of the things that makes Messiah challenging and exciting for a conductor,” says Emily Isaacson, Oratorio Chorale Artistic Director, “is that you have to make so many foundational decisions.  I believe that every time you perform a work, any work, it is our job as artists to make it resonant with this exact age, time, and place.  But Messiah takes this artistic concept several steps further by requiring the director to choose who plays what when and with whom. It’s the reason I have waited ten years to conduct Messiah. I wanted to make sure I really understood the Baroque style and Handel’s intentions before I applied my own take on this masterpiece.  It was so worth the wait.”

About the Soloists

Soprano Elisabeth Marshall has been praised for her “admirably flexible, gilt-edged voice” of “resonance and beauty” and “radiant sheen,” particularly in the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. A 2016 finalist in The American Prize Friedrich and Victoria Schorr Award in Art Song and Oratorio, she was awarded their Special Citation for “Outstanding Performance in Music before 1800.”

Mezzo-soprano Laura C. Atkinson is an active performer in both the U.S. and Germany.  She has debuted with various orchestras in both countries, including the Nashville Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra, American Baroque Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchestra, and Braunschweig Staatsorchester.

Tenor Matthew Anderson has been praised for polished musicality he brings to oratorio, opera, and musical theater. An accomplished interpreter of the music of Bach, Mr. Anderson sings regularly as a soloist in Boston’s renowned Emmanuel Music Bach Cantata Series.

Baritone David Tinervia has performed as a soloist throughout the U.S. and Canada. A two-time fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Tinervia recently made his debut as The Traveler in Curlew River in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

“With its incredibly devoted musicians, fantastic staff, and brilliantly passionate conductor Emily Isaacson, they are poised to bring a wave of classical music to the Northeast that will rival big cities in the region.” —Dashon Burton, Elijah soloist