The Bach and Handel Chorale ushered in the holiday season with its annual Christmas Concert on Saturday at St. Mark's Church in Jim Thorpe.

The program began with "Once in David's Royal City" and an a cappella solo by soprano Angela Mosley. As the remaining chorale members joined in singing, they slowly walked down the church aisle in candle-lit procession.

Conductor Randall D. Perry briefly welcomed the audience members, inviting them to "Sit back, relax, and enjoy some Christmas music. Just relax and have some fun."

Perry accompanied the chorale throughout the concert.

Now 36 members strong, the chorale began a second a cappella piece, "Sing for Christ is Born." The intricate blend of harmony and melody mixed and blended in the sanctuary of St. Mark's, and audience members burst into applause.

The chorale performed several traditional holiday pieces, including a joyful and powerful "People Look East," an energetic rendition of "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen," and "Far Far Away in Bethlehem," also a cappella.

Perry then offered his own moving interpretation of Holst's "In the Bleak Mid Winter" on piano.

The chorale again joined Perry with four carols: "Coventry Carol," "Sussex Carol," "Rocking Carol," and "Kings of the Orient," which featured soloists Dan Evans, Brad Lizotte, and Ed Sayre as the three "kings." Perry introduced the soloists after the song while jokingly commenting, "Nice job, you three wise guys!"

The concert's final pieces included a tender "As Mary Sleeps" and two choral pieces from Bach's "The Christmas Oratorio."

Perry then invited the audience to join in singing the final three songs listed on the program, "Hark! The Herald Angles Sing," "Silent Night," and "Joy to the World." He noted that "Joy to the World" was orchestrated by George Frederic Handel.

The chorale then broke into its signature "Hallelujah Chorus," also by Handel, before Perry addressed the crowd one last time.

"In these days of political correctness, we still wish you a very, Merry Christmas!" he said, as the audience applauded. "Thank you for being with us."

He then led the chorale in one last song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

The chorale will host three more Christmas Concerts during the month of December: Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Race Street in Jim Thorpe; Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., Trinity Lutheran Church on Third and Iron streets in Lehighton; and Sunday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m., at the Angela Triplex Theatre in Coaldale.

The group will also offer its annual fall concert on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. at St. Mark's Church. The fall concert will feature the Festival Orchestra and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Dietrich Buxtehude.

The Bach and Handel Chorale was founded by Perry in 1984 to celebrate the 300th anniversaries of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. Based in Jim Thorpe, the chorale is an active member of the American Bach Society and performs frequently throughout Carbon County and eastern Pennsylvania.