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Inside the Music

Going for Baroque—a different sound for the Orchestra

An image of a spaced-out orchestra performing on stage; the photo focused on the string section; all players are masked and wearing black formal attire.

You might particularly enjoy concerts that feature dazzling, hugely orchestrated symphonies where the Orchestra Hall stage is crowded with a hundred performers or more. Or, you might prefer chamber concerts, where musical ideas are passed between a select few musicians like a group of friends having an intimate conversation. Either way, our upcoming performances of El Mesías (The Messiah) will be a chance for you to hear the Orchestra in a very different way.

Led by conductor Ahmed Anzaldúa, El Mesías consists of a unique blend of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah and Navidad Nuestra, the Christmas cantata by Ariel Ramírez. These concerts will interweave voices from local choral ensemble Border CrosSing, traditional Andean instruments and a scaled-back Orchestra, with as little as one musician per section. This reduced orchestration not only allows our musicians to display their virtuosity in a smaller ensemble setting, but also more accurately reflects the size of the orchestra Handel would have conducted while debuting Messiah in 18th-century Dublin. 

Composed in 1741, Messiah has been a staple in the holiday season repertoires of choirs and orchestras across the Western world for nearly three centuries, and its subject matter—the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus—would have been a familiar and accessible story in Handel’s adopted country of Great Britain. It’s an oratorio, or work for orchestra, choir and soloists based on a libretto—like an opera, but with one important difference. Designed to be performed during the pre-Easter season of Lent when the church prohibited performances of opera, oratorios tell their dramatic stories solely through music with no additional acting or costuming. Our version breathes new life into the work some 281 years after its premiere featuring the addition of traditional Andean instruments in key sections and newly composed sections linking it to Navidad Nuestra.

To get a feel for what these December concerts will sound like, we invite you to watch the Orchestra’s 2020 holiday collaboration with Border CrosSing, where the two ensembles partnered for an early-pandemic presentation of For Unto Us a Child is Born—a selection from Handel’s Messiah.

Get your tickets now for El Mesías, performed December 9-10 at Orchestra Hall, and December 11 at Church of the Ascension.

P.S. Have you visited our Digital Concert Hall? This video was originally filmed as part of a livestreamed This Is Minnesota Orchestra concert; when you head over to our Digital Concert Hall you can find free and premium behind-the-scenes content, full performances and exclusive interviews.

Check it out!