Music at Trinity Wall Street Announces Holiday Performances
Music at Trinity Wall Street represents a high-water mark of the holiday season in New York City. There is no more venerable New World tradition of Handel's Messiah than that of the historic downtown parish, where performances date back to 1770. This season - having scored a Grammy nomination for their recording of the Baroque master's Israel in Egypt - the Trinity Choir, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and music director Julian Wachner give their annual Messiah performances at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall (Dec 18) and at Trinity Church (Dec 7 & 8). Trinity's seasonal offerings continue with the return of the Twelfth Night Festival (Dec 26-Jan 6).
Messiah at Lincoln Center and Trinity Church
Handel's Messiah is a perennial holiday favorite that reliably draws sellout crowds. This owes much to Trinity Wall Street, which was instrumental in pioneering the oratorio in the New World: Trinity Church presented the second American performance in 1770, besides playing a part in the American premiere of Messiah just eight months earlier and only blocks away at Burns's Coffee House on Broadway, where the concert served as a fundraiser for Trinity's organist. Given this long and rich history, it is fitting that it was with Messiah that Trinity Wall Street made its Lincoln Center debut two years ago, launching a new annual holiday tradition that has been warmly welcomed by the New York Times. "To experience the full, formidable range of Messiah...let Trinity be your guide," counseled one review, while a second noted that where others present Handel's oratorio as "a comfortable holiday tradition, Trinity put on something closer to a sacred rite." This season's performance at Alice Tully Hall will take place on December 18, following two at Trinity Church on December 7 and 8.
Twelfth Night Festival
Trinity's Twelfth Night Festival returns, celebrating the twelve days of the nativity with a full program of events from December 26 through January 6. Julian Wachner leads the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra in performances of seasonal Bach cantatas that include Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190, and Gott, wie dein Name, so ist auch dein Ruhm, BWV 171, composed to celebrate the New Year (Jan 2); the transcendent funeral cantata, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106, known as the Actus Tragicus (Jan 3); andSie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65, and Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen, BWV 123, both written to commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6). The New York Times has praised the "dramatic vigor" of Trinity's Bach performances, finding them distinguished by a "buoyant, elegantly shaped orchestral sound" and the "lithe, immaculate, and colorful singing of the chorus."
The festival also showcases holiday-themed choral works by English composer Benjamin Britten, whose centennial Trinity has been honoring since September with "Celebrating Britten," "a most exciting and worthy project" (New York Times). These works include the Christmas cantata Saint Nicolas (Jan 5) and the ever-popularCeremony of Carols, a setting of Middle-English carols for treble voices and harp (Dec 26), both of which will be sung by the Trinity Youth Chorus.
Following the success of its participation in last season's Twelfth Night Festival, the Gotham Early Music Scene (GEMS) returns to present The Play of Daniel, a 12th-century liturgical music drama depicting the story of Daniel in the lions' den. Sung entirely in Latin, GEMS's fully-costumed production features dance and performances by many of New York's finest period instrumentalists and singers (Dec 27-29). Describing the production as "spine-tingling," the New York Times concluded: "The very old felt...very much of our time."
Also making a guest appearance are the Clarion Society and its artistic director Steven Fox, "a conductor to follow" (Seen and Heard International). Together they undertake two accounts of Rachmaninoff's Vespers, the composer's choral masterpiece that draws on ancient Kievan and Byzantine chants in a setting of texts from the Russian Orthodox all-night vigil ceremony (Dec 31 & Jan 1).
In a groundbreaking new collaboration, Gotham Chamber Opera - the Baroque specialists who have "won a prestigious place in the hearts of adventurous opera-goers" (Musical Criticism) - will team up with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra for three fully-staged presentations of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's chamber opera La descente d'Orphée, which explores the transcendental power of music through the story of Orpheus and Eurydice (Jan 1, 3 & 5).