Photo: Bourbon Baroque



By Georg Frederic Handel

Bourbon Baroque

Review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved

On a seasonably comfortable Saturday evening, a good-sized crowd sat in St. Brigid’s Catholic Church to enjoy the talents of Bourbon Baroque and their equally impressive guests. As has become commonplace, the performing of Messiah harkens the arrival of the Christmas season. Now, you don’t have to be a musicologist or historian to know that Messiah was not written for Christmastide exclusively, but as traditions happen, it has become a Christmastime favorite. And for good reason.

But before we get to the main entree, let’s talk about the appetizer.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit pour Noël began the program. Emily Redden started us off with a vocally lovely soprano solo of Kyrie, and soon became one with the impressive ensemble from the Youth Performing Arts School Chamber Choir. Charpentier’s Midnight Mass for Christmas is made up of six movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Offertoire, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Of course these movements are fashioned from the traditional Latin Mass of the Catholic Church and are interspersed with beautiful solos, duets and chorus. The vocalists, in general, all did beautifully, even if at times the sound of the instrumentation would drown them out, especially the basses.

In particular, there was one soloist who wowed me, Joseph Kingsbury. Aside from his tonally precise solo work, I was impressed by Mr. Kingsbury’s range as a male alto. He certainly added an aurally pleasing difference to what one would normally hear in an SATB choral setting. I hope that Mr. Kingsbury continues to expand his vocal abilities to be a pleasant anomaly in choral and solo music.

After luxuriating in Charpentier’s Mass, I felt I had been to church as the synchronicity of Bourbon Baroque and the YPAS Chamber Choir, working together on the pulpit of St. Brigid’s, was pleasing to both sight and sound.

Now, on to Messiah.

I’ve mentioned many times about the embarrassment of riches that Louisville has when it comes to the kind of talent that can be found in our fair city. And the talent that was culled for this presentation certainly further proved our worth.

With the vocal talents of soprano Emily Albrink Katz, mezzo Audrey Walstrom, tenor Steven Paul Spears and baritone Jim Rittenhouse, along with the YPAS Chamber Chorus, under the direction of John Austin Clark we, the audience, were entranced by familiar melodies and transformative harmonies.

Bourbon Baroque chose to feature Part I of Messiah which includes what one would call “the greatest hits” of the Oratorio, focusing on: Isaiah’s prophecy of salvation, the coming judgment, the prophecy of Christ’s birth, the annunciation to the shepherds and Christ’s healing and redemption. Now, as you can tell, some of these are directed towards Christmas, in the story of Jesus Christ, while some are suited more for Easter, but they are all interwoven in the grander story and can be used interchangeably for the seasons. Smart choices for the setting of the evening/program.

As with last year’s performance of Comfort ye my people and Ev’ry valley shall be exalted by Mr. Spears, he is confident in his upper register and I was hoping that energy could have been shared in the chorus. I was not sure if it was just an “oops” moment, but the enthusiasm was not there in the very beginning, but did finally gather steam. Messiah is not a piece that you can rest on.

Jim Rittenhouse’s Thus saith the Lord of hosts was enchanting, save for the bottom register notes, which could not always be heard.  As was the case last year, when the talented Ms. Walstrom performed the recitative Behold, a virgin shall conceive, it felt a little rushed. Having intimate connection with that particular section of the Oratorio, I personally like to savor that piece. Although it also had problems of pace, her O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion shimmered.

Mrs. Katz’s soprano was enamoring and clear as she performed pieces such as And the angel said unto them and Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Once again, there were a couple of times when, in the upper register, I was not able to decipher the words.

The whole of Bourbon Baroque and their instrumentation were a delight to watch and listen. There was one point where a fellow violinist was pointing out a section of music to Artistic Director Nicolas Fortin that made me wonder, did she do that to remind him of a missed note or notation, or to caution him? As a musician and audience member I found it funny that even in the middle of a stunning performance that these musicians were able to communicate while plying their craft.

And as tradition was held, the evening concluded with the singing of the Hallelujah chorus….including yours truly singing into the rafters. I have to remember that it isn’t a sing-along unless it states as so in the program. What can I say….the musical spirit of the evening moved me!

Bravo Tutti.


Handel’s Messiah

November 29 & 30, 2014

Bourbon Baroque
St. Brigid’s Catholic Church
520 Hepburn Avenue
Louisville, KY 40204


Annette Skaggs[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]