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‘A more intimate presentation’

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Rogue Valley Chorale, Jefferson Baroque Orchestra combine for ‘Christmas Messiah’ concerts Dec. 4-5
Group portrait of Rogue Valley Chorale at Craterian Collier Center for the Performing Arts
Colin Campbell
Jennifer Matsuura
Jose Rubio
Shelly Cox-Thornhill

In most cities with strong arts communities, it wouldn’t be the holidays without a performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” Medford is no exception.

Rogue Valley Chorale, in concert with the Jefferson Baroque Orchestra, will present two performances of “Christmas Messiah” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Craterian Theater.

“We adopted that name for the concert because we are highlighting Part 1,” said Michael Morris, artistic director, “which is sometimes known as the Christmas segment.”

Fans of Handel’s oratorio won’t be disappointed to learn that the concert will also include the iconic “Hallelujah Chorus,” as well as the final movement of the work, which includes segments titled “Worthy is the Lamb” and “The Great Amen.”

Typical performances of the entire “Messiah” are usually 2.5 to 3 hours long. The Rogue Valley Chorale performance of excerpts will be approximately 1.5 hours in length.

During the pandemic, shorter performances have been the norm.

“Most performing organizations have reduced the time of their programs to limit the exposure time for audiences and performers,” Morris said.

“Originally we planned a longer program, but after the uptick in COVID-19 cases when the delta variation took hold, we modified the program.”

Handel composed “Messiah” for a small orchestra of stringed instruments, trumpets, timpani and harpsichord.

“We are very fortunate to be collaborating with the Jefferson Baroque Orchestra,” Morris said.

Its members, under the direction of Morgan O’Shaughnessy, play on period instruments or modern copies in order to recapture the transparent timbres and lively articulations of orchestras in the 18th century.

“I wished to return to the sound of the original orchestration,” Morris said. “It allows a more intimate presentation.”

Featured soloists include Jennifer Matsuura, soprano; Shelly Cox-Thornhill, mezzo-soprano; Colin Campbell, tenor; and Jose Rubio, bass.

“We are very excited to have engaged these amazing soloists,” Morris said. “They have made their mark not only in Southern Oregon, but nationally and internationally as well.”

The text for Handel’s “Messiah” was written by Charles Jennens, an English land baron and patron of the arts. Handel wrote the music in 24 days of swift composition.

The rapid pace was seen by Jennens not as a sign of ecstatic energy, but rather as “careless negligence,” and relations between the two men would remain strained. Jennens urged Handel to make “improvements” but the composer stubbornly refused.

Tickets for “Christmas Messiah” can be purchased at craterian.org or at the Craterian Theater box office, 16 S. Bartlett, downtown Medford, 541-779-3000

You can reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.