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