The Bach and Handel Chorale celebrated the Easter season with its annual Easter Concert yesterday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe.
The chorale began the concert with a magnificent and joyful performance of Mass in D Major, an original composition by chorale founder and conductor Randall Douglass Perry.
This is the second time that Mass in D Major has been performed in public. Its first performance marked the 20th anniversary of the Bach and Handel Chorale in 2003.
"It was last performed in 2003, and it weaves contemporary, baroque and impressionistic styles together throughout the Mass," said Perry. The Mass also offers a fitting tribute to the Easter season, as it contains the Nicene Creed and takes listeners through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
"The chorale really enjoyed it, and the orchestra enjoys playing this piece."
Perry began the second half of the performance with a second original piece, this one filled with personal meaning.
"This piece is 'In Tribute to My Father.' After he passed away, I grieved very hard for my father," said Perry. He described the process of writing piano and orchestral piece, of being moved by his father's passing to put his emotions into song.
Perry also described his father as "my hero, my father, my reason for being here and the person from whom I received my talent."
After finishing the composition and hearing it for the first time, "I listened and I cried. I really feel that I had written a piece that encapsulated my father's entire life story, from his birth to his death."
He then turned to the orchestra and began "In Tribute to My Father: John A. Perry, Jr., 1930-2011." After the last note faded and ended, Perry's family and his father's friends leapt to their feet in applause. Perry then presented his mother, younger brother, and oldest brother's wife with a copy of the score, reading aloud a personalized dedication from each score.
"I present this score to you so that you may know the music in my heart, and my unending love for you and dad," he said to his mother. The crowd chuckled when he ended the letter with "Love, your second son."
Perry also thanked his younger brother Tim for sharing a love and talent for music, and his older brother John "Jack" and his wife Sue Perry. Tim Perry was in the orchestra on guitar.
Perry then changed the mood of the concert and offered the its first Handel piece with the bold "Coronation Anthem No. 1," composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727. "Coronation Anthem No. 1" has been sung at every coronation since King George II and is traditionally sung at the anointing of the monarch.
The combined power of the chorale and full orchestra echoed through St. Mark's, offering guests a glimpse of the pomp and celebration that might surround a coronation at Westminster Abbey.
Selections by Johann Sebastian Bach included Cantata BWV 74, "Wir Mich Liebet" (He who loves me) and Gratias Agimus Tibi (We thank Thee) from Mass in B Minor.
Perry also offered his own orchestral rendition of the popular 1970s song "Aubrey" by David Gates of the popular band Bread, and "My Song is Love Unknown" for the chorale and full orchestra.
The chorale ended its performance with its signature "Hallelujah Chorus."
Upcoming performances by the Bach and Handel Chorale include a benefit concert on Saturday, May 5 at 3 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church in the Heights, Jim Thorpe, located at 318 South Ave. in Jim Thorpe. The benefit will support the church's rebuilding of their pipe organ.
"St. John's Lutheran in the Heights has been very good to the chorale for many years," said Perry, noting that the chorale meets for practice each week at St. John's. "Now it's our turn to give back to them."
The chorale will offer its annual Christmas concerts Saturday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Race Street; Saturday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church in Ringtown; and Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at St. Paul's UCC in Trexlertown.
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 performs frequently throughout Carbon County and eastern Pennsylvania.
For more information on upcoming events or to learn more about the chorale, visit www.bachandhandelchorale.org.