This year Handel's "Messiah" will again bring together the Tudors and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra.

Share story

Ever since St. Mark’s Cathedral canceled its quarter-century run of annual “Messiah” productions back in 2002, the Tudor Choir has been looking for a way to revive that venerable tradition. This year, and in a new location, Handel’s “Messiah” will again bring together the Tudors and the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the groups that performed together in the last several years of the St. Mark’s productions.

“The Cathedral had to cancel the ‘Messiah’ because the expenses grew,” Tudor Choir founding director Doug Fullington explains.

“We’ve been trying ever since to find a way to do it ourselves with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra. Our talks with Town Hall led to a decision last summer to do the ‘Messiah.’ We have an amazing set of soloists — because Ingrid [Matthews, the violinist/director of Seattle Baroque Orchestra] has an excellent reputation and people are eager to work with her.” Among the soloists: the stellar American-born singer Emily van Evera, who will sing the soprano solos; mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane; tenor William Hite; and baritone Nathaniel Watson.

The performances, at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday, will present a version of the “Messiah” that Handel himself might recognize: period instruments, voices trained in baroque style, and a chorus and orchestra of small, intimate size. There will be 20 players in the orchestra, and only 13 singers in the chorus (four sopranos and three each of altos, tenors and basses).

“Handel’s own forces were not huge,” says Fullington of the “Messiah” productions presented by the composer over the course of many years.

“I think the Town Hall acoustics will make this work. The audience will be wrapped around the stage area, close by, and they will be able to see the expressions on the performers’ faces.” Matthews will lead the performances from her concertmaster chair; Fullington will conduct the choral portions.

A noon family matinee will include the Christmas section of the three-part oratorio, in an hourlong presentation suitable for families (with children 6 and up). The 7 p.m. evening performance will be the full oratorio, which usually lasts just over 2 ½ hours. Fullington believes parents should decide whether their young children are ready for the hourlong noon performance.

Town Hall is the presenter of this “Messiah,” and the Tudor Choir has sent out an additional appeal for fundraising so expenses can be met.

That the 15-year-old Tudor Choir is healthy enough to take these steps is good news for arts watchers who assumed the worst from the choir’s announcement last March that it would discontinue presenting an annual season of concerts. Fullington explains that the group is keeping very busy singing on other presenters’ series, including dates in Eastern Washington in February and in Portland in March. The choir also will sing at the centennial festivities for Seattle’s Blessed Sacrament Church in June and at the Tacoma Art Museum in the summer. The group additionally hosts an annual Tallis Scholars Summer School, in conjunction with one of England’s most highly regarded choral ensembles.

Later this month, the Tudor Choir is recording a work by Seattle composer Peter Hallock; the choir will appear at the Seattle Art Museum in conjunction with upcoming Italian art exhibitions.

Fullington also is keeping very busy in a dual role as assistant to the Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal and education programs manager at PNB.

“I’m really looking forward to the ‘Messiah’ performances,” says Fullington.

“I love the clarity of Town Hall, and the small forces will allow a lot of flexibility of interpretation. I hope this ‘Messiah’ will be the first of many more.”

Also this weekend

Good seats still remain to three final Seattle Men’s Chorus Christmas show (“Home for the Holidays”) concerts in Benaroya Hall, at 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15-$70, at 206-388-1400 or

Melinda Bargreen: