Early Music Vancouver presents Handel’s Messiah at three venues across the Lower Mainland during the holiday season.
Early Music Vancouver presents Handel’s Messiah at three venues across the Lower Mainland during the holiday season.

Early Music Vancouver (EMV) is providing local audiences with a trio of opportunities to experience this intimate interpretation of Handel’s most well-known masterpiece, Messiah.

Featuring the Pacific Baroque Orchestra musicians on period instruments, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, and four highly-acclaimed international soloists, EMV strives to provide audiences with an authentic and historically-informed interpretation of Handel’s iconic work.

“When performed with a commitment to the language, musical style, and spirit in which it was originally conceived, Handel’s Messiah still has the power to strike like a thunderbolt,” says EMV executive and artistic director Matthew White.

Ivars Taurins, who has conducted Messiah for the past 37 years with Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, will hold the baton for the EMV performances.

Taurins is “one of Canada’s undisputed champions of Handel’s vocal music,” according to White. “Nobody knows or loves this music more than Ivars,” he says.

Premiered in 1742, Messiah is an oratorio in three parts, comprised of sacred texts primarily from the biblical Old and New Testaments compiled by librettist Charles Jennens, and set to music composed by George Frideric Handel in a mere 24 days.

Part one encompasses Old Testament prophesies of Christ’s coming, as well as a musical account of Jesus’ birth. Part two focuses on the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Part three is a celebration and invitation to all humankind, to accept the gift of salvation through Christ’s atonement.

Though the oratorio is set to sacred texts, White believes Messiah can speak to all people regardless of their background or beliefs.

“This yuletide masterpiece offers universal messages of seeing hope in the darkness, the importance of goodwill towards men, and the potential for peace on earth,” he says. “That there is an unbroken tradition of annual Messiah performances in Canada going back to St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Halifax in 1789 is a testament to our enduring fascination with this great work.“

Soprano Joanne Lunn, mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, tenor Thomas Hobbs, and baritone Peter Harvey, make up the quartet of international soloists. They will perform the duets, arias and recitatives in Handel’s famous work alongside the Juno-nominated Pacific Baroque Orchestra and choruses sung by the city’s beloved Vancouver Cantata Singers.

With a highly experienced leader at the podium and musicians rooted in historically-informed practice, audiences can assume no sheep will go astray during this performance.

Handel’s Messiah takes place at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, November 30 at 8 pm, as well as at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver on November 29 at 7:30pm, and at the ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge on December 1 at 3pm. Visit earlymusic.bc.ca for tickets and information.