Lexington Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell loves George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. But he also knows there’s more to Christmas works for orchestra and chorus than that perennial, so this year he changing things up.
The Philharmonic’s Saturday night program at the Cathedral of Christ the King will feature a large section of Messiah that will, “give most Messiah devotees 90 percent of what they want to hear,” Terrell says.
But the program will also present other seasonal works, principally about half of Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, plus several other baroque and modern sacred pieces for a familiar yet different holiday program.
“The mission of our organization is to present a breadth of orchestral repertoire,” Terrell says of the concert. “It’s also an opportunity to take advantage of these fantastic acoustics.”
In Terrell’s second season as director of the Philharmonic, he moved the annual performance of Messiah from the orchestra’s usual venue, the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, to the Chevy Chase Catholic church, saying it was better suited to a baroque presentation of the oratorio.
His aim was to refine the orchestra’s baroque playing, saying if they had done Gloria the first year at the Cathedral, they probably wouldn’t have done it justice. That also would have been a lot of change in one year, he acknowledges. But now, five years into the move, Terrell says the orchestra has grown substantially.
“I stewed on it last year and thought, here’s a chance to offer the community more,” Terrell says. “We don’t have this opportunity as much. We don’t have a room that gives back the way this room does, often. These pieces speak in this aesthetic.”
Among them are J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, John Taverner’s Song of the Angel and the Chorale being featured on contemporary composer Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque.
“It’s important people understand that from Handel to contemporary composers, they are aware of their aesthetic and the audience they are composing for,” Terrell says.
In coming seasons, Terrell says he is open to the idea of presenting other seasonal works, maybe the Bach Magnificat, in the same slot where the orchestra used to present Messiah. He is also open to returning to a full Messiah presentation, at some point.
The Philharmonic is able to veer away from the full Messiah performance because there are several presentations of the oratorio in the Lexington area during the holidays. Last weekend Christ Church Cathedral presented its annual baroque version of the piece, and Saturday, at the same time the Philharmonic is in the Cathedral, the Lexington Singers will present Messiah at the Singletary Center. So people who want a full performance of Handel’s signature work have options.
Terrell just wanted to offer more options and thus far, he says he has received little negative feedback about the new program.
“I’m curious, but not worried,” Terrell says, anticipating audience reaction to the concert. “I have no doubt the audience will be incredibly moved by this performance.
“I’m as excited about this program as much as any concert we’re doing this year.”
If You Go
What: Portions of Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah and other works presented by the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra with the Lexington Chamber Chorale and soloists Sarah Tucker (soprano), Ben Bliss (tenor) and William Ronning (violin) conducted by Scott Terrell.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 12
Where: Cathedral of Christ the King, 299 Colony Blvd.
What: Handel’s oratorio presented by the Lexington Singers with soloists Gregory Turay (tenor), Rebecca Farley (soprano), La’Shelle Allen (mezzo-soprano) and Eric Brown (baritone) conducted by Jefferson Johnson.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 12
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.
Tickets: $27 premium, $22 public, $20 senior adults, $9 students.