The Bach and Handel Chorale marked the Easter season this weekend by performing Johann Sebastian Bach's "Easter Oratorio," BWV 249, to a full house at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe. The chorale was accompanied by its 24-piece Festival Orchestra.

The celebratory oratorio featured soloists Heidi Hayes, soprano; Jennifer Brown Laubach, alto; Jeffrey Manns, tenor; and Richard Johnson, bass. Soloists portrayed the roles of Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobi, and apostles Simon Peter and John as they approached the grave of Jesus, only to find it empty. While Simon Peter and John first question where the body of Jesus could be, their sorrow turns to delight when they realize that their Savior lives again. This oratorio was first performed as a cantata on Easter Sunday, 1725.

The concert was dedicated to the memory of Laura Sheard, a student of Chorale founder and conductor Randall Douglas Perry who passed away in 2011. The chorale performed "A Song for Laura," a moving tribute to Sheard featuring the full chorale and orchestra, during the second half of the concert.

"My time with Laura was very special," said Perry. "She would light up the room and was so much fun to be with. I was devastated when I heard the news, and I know everyone was. I did not want to dwell on the tragedy. Instead, I wrote this piece because Laura was special to me and I know how many lives she has touched."

Perry noted that it felt most appropriate to perform "A Song for Laura" during the Easter concert, and to dedicate the spring concert to her memory.

"This is our Easter concert, when we celebrate the resurrection. Laura believed in the resurrected Lord, and it was a fitting tribute to a lovely girl who left us far too early," said Perry.

The Easter concert also included two additional pieces arranged by Perry for piano and orchestra, included the ballad "The Long and Winding Road," originally recorded by the Beatles, and "For the Hearts that Never Mend," an original composition dedicated to all of those people who have had their hearts broken.

In a nod to the chorale's namesake composers, Bach and George Frideric Handel selections included Handel's "O Lord! In Thee Have I Trusted" and Bach's Cantata BWV 149.

"It was lovely to see so many people in the pews," said Perry. "It was heartwarming. I want to thank all of the people who attended."

Perry reminded concertgoers that the chorale is currently preparing for its 30th anniversary concert, which will be held next year on April 26, 2014 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

The chorale will next perform during a benefit concert at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, 125 Pine St., Tamaqua, on Saturday, May 18 at 3 p.m. They will also offer their annual Christmas concert on Saturday, Dec. 7 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 21 Race St., Jim Thorpe, at noon and 3 p.m. Tickets are available through the Bach and Handel Chorale office, and Dimmick Memorial Library and Nutritional Needs, both on Broadway. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.lvartsboxoffice.org.

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.

For more information on upcoming events or to learn more about the chorale, visit www.bachandhandelchorale.org.