Portland Center Stage presents Hair at the Armory Portland Oregon

In Portland, a ‘Messiah’ rings forth

As Portland Baroque Orchestra and the choir Cappella Romana bring Handel's "Messiah" to vivid life, photographer Joe Cantrell captures the energy and beauty of it all.


Gabriel Crouch directing Handel’s “Messiah” in Portland’s First Baptist Church.

A grand and moving tradition has returned to Portland. After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the musicians of Portland Baroque Orchestra and the choir Cappella Romana are lifting their voices and instruments in a trio of performances of George Frideric Handel’s 1741 masterwork “Messiah.” Handel’s oratorio, performed amid the physical richness and resonant acoustics of downtown’s First Baptist Church, is a shining jewel of the holiday season, and the PBO/Cappella Romana version does it full justice, performing all three hours of Handel’s music, and performing it on period instruments that as much as possible re-create the sound of the oratorio’s late Baroque period.

This year’s “Messiah” is directed by Gabriel Crouch, director of choral activities at Princeton University and musical director of the British early music ensemble Gallicantus, with guest soloists Maya Kherani, Abi Levis, Thomas Cooley, and Douglas Williams. Performances were Friday and Saturday evenings, Dec. 9 and 10, with a final performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. Photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand Friday night to capture the visual resonances of the occasion: A selection of his photographs is below.

December has been a busy month for Portland Baroque Orchestra, which on the 7th announced conductor and harpsichordist Julian Perkins as its incoming artistic director. Next up for the ensemble will be a pair of performances of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Dec. 16 and 17 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Cappella Romana has recently released the premiere recording of Robert Kyr’s “All-Night Vigil,” and is preparing for its next concert, “A Byzantine Emperor at King Henry’s Court,” Jan. 20 in Seattle and Jan. 21-22 in Portland.

— The Editors

Tenor Thomas Cooley, one of several guest soloists.
Cappella Romana sopranos Noelle Goodenberger and Jessica Israels.
Soprano guest soloist Maya Kherani, in front of the orchestra.
Cappella Romana soprano Jessica Israels, smiling into the music.
Director Gabriel Crouch, delighted in the moment, with bassist Andrew Harmon.
Back row: Cappella Romana basses Patrick McDonough, David Krueger, Aaron Cain. Middle row: sopranos Catherine van der Salm, Vakare Petroliunaite, altos Kristen Buhler, Kathleen Hollingsworth, Cecily Kiester, Susan Hale, Kerry McCarthy. Front row: Portland Baroque Orchestra oboist Matthew Hudgens, violist Victoria Gunn, violinist Janet Strauss.

I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!

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