When Trinity Wall Street’s Director of Music and the Arts, Julian Wachner, led the resident Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra in Handel’s Messiah last season, the New York Times praised the performance’s “juxtaposition of serene introspection and ebullient release.” Now the same forces reprise this holiday favorite for their Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall on December 19. Trinity Wall Street’s seasonal offerings continue with the launch of the first annual Twelfth Night Festival, created in collaboration with many of New York City’s leading early-music ensembles: the Green Mountain Project, TENET, Les Sirènes, and the Sebastian Chamber Players. The festival’s inaugural season (Dec 26 – Jan 6) is framed by the six cantatas that make up J.S. Bach’s exuberant Christmas Oratorio and also includes the Vespers of 1640 by Monteverdi.
Today, Handel’s Messiah is a perennial holiday favorite that reliably draws sellout crowds. In the United States, Trinity Wall Street was instrumental in pioneering the oratorio: Trinity Wall Street presented the second American performance in 1770, and also played a part in the New World premiere, given eight months earlier and just blocks away as a fundraiser for a former Trinity Church employee. Now Wachner keeps the venerable tradition alive, supported by the Trinity Choir, with its “voices so pure they suggest a seraphic chorus beyond the human sphere” (New York Times), and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra, one of New York’s finest period-instrument ensembles. Last season, the New York Times observed:
“In his first Messiah with the superb Trinity Choir and the newly-established Trinity Baroque Orchestra, [Wachner] began to put his stamp on the work.… He succeeded admirably, drawing a crystalline texture from his 24-voice choir, which is notable for its bright, pure soprano sound…. As in years past, the soloists in the Trinity Messiah were drawn from the chorus, and…there were affecting solo performances…. The orchestra, filled with well-known period-instrument players …performed commandingly.”
Given Trinity Wall Street’s long and rich association with the work, crowned by this recent success, it is fitting that it is Messiah with which Trinity is due to make its first Lincoln Center appearance on December 19.
Celebrating its commitment to early music, Trinity Wall Street launches the first Twelfth Night Festival this season. Punctuating the festival are the six cantatas of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, performed by Wachner, the Trinity Choir, and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra. The New York Times reports that “musical and acoustical forces had combined to transcendent effect” earlier this year, when Wachner led a “moving performance” of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Trinity Choir, Trinity Youth Chorus, and Trinity Baroque Orchestra, with “spine-tingling” results. The six Christmas Oratorio cantatas will be presented in Trinity Wall Street’s “Bach at One” series, which – in historic St. Paul’s Chapel – returns the Baroque master’s sacred vocal music to its original liturgical setting, and is free and open to the public (Dec 26 & 27; Jan 2 & 6). Part I, on December 26, will be coupled with Bach’s uplifting motet Magnificat, complete with Christmas interpolations.