The Bach and Handel Chorale held its annual spring concert Saturday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe. The chorale was founded in 1984 by Randall Douglas Perry to celebrate the 300th anniversaries of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
Perry served as conductor and accompanist for the performance. In many ways, the piano-accompanied concert served as a return to the chorale's roots, when Perry first brought together a small group of music lovers to celebrate Bach and Handel.
He dedicated the first performance, a rich and moving rendition of "O Jesus Christ, My Life and Light," to deceased members of the chorale.
The concert featured popular and well-known compositions by Bach and Handel, including Bach's "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desire" and selections from "Mass in B Minor." The chorale also performed several choruses from Handel's "Messiah."
The group rounded out the first half of its performance with Coronation Anthem No. 4, "Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened," composed by Handel in 1727 for the coronation of England's King George II. The song offered listeners a glimpse of the sounds which once echoed through Westminster Abbey songs both jubilant and somber to celebrate the rite of coronation.
After a brief intermission, the chorale returned to perform four choruses from "Mass in B Minor." This Mass was last performed in its entirety by the chorale in 2009. Choruses included "Et Incarnatus Est," "Crucifixus," "Et resurrexit," and "Dona Nobis Pacem," and featured soloist Edward Sayre, bass.
Perry also offered a bright and lively piece on the piano, Handel's "Gigue" from "Harpsichord Concerto in G."
The group concluded its performance with Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" from "Messiah," a long-standing tradition for the chorale.
While the chorale has struggled with a loss of grants and donations due to the recession the spring concert's traditional Festival Orchestra performance was scaled back to a piano-accompanied concert to preserve funds the chorale continues to demonstrate a passion for classical music unlike that of any other group in the area.
During the concert, Perry spoke of the perseverance of chorale members and the unwavering support of audience members as the group has grown and changed.
"I want to thank you, those who have supported us for the past 25 years," he said. "We've all come full circle."
The chorale will offer a benefit concert for Shepherd House at St. John's Lutheran Church, 319 South Ave. in Jim Thorpe, on May 23 at 3 p.m., before taking a break for the summer season.
The chorale returns to St. Mark's for the first of five Christmas concerts on Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. Other Christmas performances will be Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Trexlertown; Dec. 5 at 4 p.m., St. John's UCC in Tamaqua; Dec. 11 at 3 p.m., St. Mark's in Jim Thorpe; and Dec. 12 at 3 p.m., Angela Triplex Theatre in Coaldale.
For more information or to support the chorale, visit www.bachandhandelchorale.org.