Handel and Haydn Society to Celebrate Holidays with Bach Christmas

The Handel and Haydn Society (H&H) continues its celebration of the holidays with A Bach Christmas, an intimate Baroque program of vocal and instrumental works. In what has become an H&H tradition, this year's Bach Christmas showcases J.S. Bach's stirring Advent cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 62), alongside unfamiliar musical gems by Bach's lesser known cousins, Johann Christoph Bach, Johann Ludwig Bach, and Johann Bernard Bach. Earlier 17th-century Christmas music by Samuel Scheidt and Praetorius completes this joyous, all-German program.

"With German music, there can be this innate seriousness and conscientious attention to craft but also great fun," says the concert's programmer and guest conductor, Scott Metcalfe.

The concert's first half celebrates Advent, the four-week period in the liturgical calendar preceding Christmas, with the familiar Martin Luther chorale Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Now come, Savior of the heathens) as the focus. This signature Advent hymn will be followed by Michael Praetorius' arrangements of the same chorale and J.S. Bach's Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 62). Composed for the first Sunday of Advent in December 1724, this emotive cantata will feature 14 players from the Period Instrument Orchestra, the 12-singer Chorus, and solo arias for tenor and bass.

Metcalfe will be making his H&H conducting debut with A Bach Christmas. Now in his 15th season as the artistic director of the Cambridge-based early music vocal ensemble Blue Heron, Metcalfe is an accomplished violinist as well as conductor. Praised by The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Donald Rosenberg as "a model of supple phrasing and keen rhythmic impulses, finding subtle nuances in diverse materials," Metcalfe will be doing double-duty for A Bach Christmas-conducting and playing first violin for the orchestral pieces on the program.

"We are very excited to welcome Scott to lead the Handel and Haydn Society," says H&H Executive Director Marie-Hélène Bernard. "Scott has proven himself to be a conductor of great technical command and musicality with creative ideas in programming. This should be an outstanding concert."

Tickets are available through Handel and Haydn Society (H&H) Box Office: by phone at 617 266 3605; online at handelandhaydn.org; or in person at the Handel and Haydn Society offices, Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston (M-F, 10am-6pm). Student rush is available starting 90 minutes before the performance: $15 cash only with valid ID, best available seats subject to availability. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20% discount.

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