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Bourbon Baroque Returns To Louisville To Perform Handel's 'Messiah'

Nerissa Sparkman

Bourbon Baroque is a period instrument ensemble founded in Louisville that performs the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. They are opening their 10th season this weekend with performances of Georg Frederic Handel’s “Messiah.”

Artistic director John Austin Clark -- who now lives in New York City -- says their performance of the piece is distinct in a few ways.

For example, at Christmas time, it is tradition to only perform the first part of the “Messiah,” which represents the birth of Christ. Bourbon Baroque will instead perform the entire composition -- representing Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection -- with a troupe of 21 instrumentalists and 13 vocalists.

“That’s the smallest choral group we are using for this production,” Clark says.

Bourbon Baroque’s version of the composition will also feature lighting design that pairs with the storyline's two-and-a-half hour ebb and flow.

This is also a particularly emotional performance for the group; earlier this month Bourbon Baroque’s co-artistic director Nicolas Fortin passed away. Clark and Fortin worked together on programming for this season, including plans for “Messiah.”

“It’s such a wonderful piece that brings such joy to so many people that it is going to be something that will be therapy for me and so many people who were touched by Nicco,” Clark says.

Clark says while he believes “Messiah” was written and is often presented with a religious focus, it has a message that can be appreciated by audiences of all different backgrounds.

“The work that Handel created through Messiah is a universal message of love and of hope and everyone can obviously take something away from that,” Clark says. “So while this work can be interpreted as something very Christian, a larger perspective can really be gleaned from the words and from the melodies of this work.”

Bourbon Baroque will perform Handel’s “Messiah” on November 26 and 27 at St. Brigid Catholic Church. More information is available here.