The Bach and Handel Chorale ushered in its holiday concert season Saturday with the first two of four Christmas concerts.

The chorale offered two Christmas concerts this weekend at the historic St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe, led by chorale founder Randall Douglas Perry and associate conductor Angela Mosley. Two additional concerts will be held next weekend in Ringtown and Trexlertown.

The concert began with the chorale gathered at the back of the sanctuary singing "Adeste Fidelis (Come, All Ye Faithful)," with Perry accompanying on organ. Members then processed to the front of the darkened church, holding brightly lit candles.

"I want to thank you for taking the time to be here," said Perry, welcoming the audience. "We hope you enjoy the performance. Around here we don't say 'happy holidays.' We say 'Merry Christmas!'"

The chorale then led the audience on a musical journey through Advent and into the Christmas celebration, beginning with the Advent hymns "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night" and "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," and transitioning into the celebratory songs such as "Behold a Newborn Babe."

"This particular concert takes us through the season, in that we're starting out with songs about Advent," said chorale board President Leta Thompson. "We're getting ready to celebrate Christ's birth. These concerts always remind me of that, especially when we're performing at St. Mark's with the beautiful stained glass windows. You hear all of the audience members singing. It's a wonderful feeling."

The chorale offered several selections by Bach and Handel, including Bach's "Bow to Thank Him" and Perry's performance of "In Dulci Jubilo," and "For Unto Us a Child is Born" from Handel's "Messiah."

The audience joined the chorale for three traditional carols, including "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World," their voices mingling and blending with the performers at the front of the sanctuary.

The chorale ended the concert with "Sing a Glad Noel," a joyful song celebrating Christ's birth.

The chorale will offer two additional Christmas concerts this coming weekend: Saturday, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church, 106 Main St. in Ringtown; and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. at St. Paul's UCC, 1249 Trexlertown Road in Trexlertown.

Founded in 1984 and based in Jim Thorpe, the Bach and Handel Chorale will celebrate its 30th anniversary this spring with a series of concerts. The 30th anniversary "concert gala" will take place at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 26 at St. Mark's in Jim Thorpe, and will include a reception and accompaniment by the Festival Orchestra.

"This is our 30th year, so this is a special year for us. We're happy to be alive and well for 30 years," said Thompson. "We really want to thank everybody who supported us throughout the years. We feel we have something unique to offer, and we're very pleased that people get something out of our music and enjoy coming to our concerts."

The chorale will also offer a "Celebration of American Song" at 3 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 17 at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.

Tickets are available by contacting the Bach and Handel Chorale office at 570-325-4794 or at the Dimmick Memorial Library and Nutritional Needs, both on Broadway in Jim Thorpe, or online at lvartsboxoffice.org.

Tickets for the May 17 concert are available online at www.mauchchunkoperahouse.com and from Soundcheck Records on Broadway.

For more information or to learn more about the chorale, go to www.bachandhandelchorale.org.