By STEPHEN ANDERSON
L'ANSE - A recently formed Baraga County choir group will perform the "Messiah" this weekend, the only presentation in the region of one of George Frideric Handel's most famous works.
The Bay Area Chorus, which was formed in 2011 by Eric Erickson, will present "Handel's Messiah, Part the First" at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sacred Heart Church in L'Anse.
"Since it seems the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier it only made sense to have this concert right after Thanksgiving, to ensure everyone can get their 'Messiah fix' before too long," Erickson said. "The Bay Area Chorus is the only musical group performing any part of the 'Messiah' in the Upper Peninsula, and I would venture to say northern Wisconsin."
Erickson said it initially seemed like a challenge to mount such a large-scale production in Baraga County for a work usually performed by choruses and orchestras numbering in the hundreds of people, but he noted most Baroque-era music was meant to be sung and played by small ensembles.
Even being an hour away from both the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra and Marquette Symphony Orchestra, Erickson has assembled 25 people from Baraga County who have rehearsed nearly 20 times for their big Christmas performance.
"It was with great aplomb I decided to organize any interested person around the Baraga/L'Anse area to come and sing, for the fun and camaraderie of it, the 'Messiah,'" Erickson said. "It has been a lot of work, no doubt to that - but we're hoping everyone who is able and interested comes. These people have put in a lot of effort to put together this not-so-easily sung oratorio by Handel, and some traditional carols.
"This will be our first 'Messiah' and hopefully not our last," he continued. "It has been a wonderful opportunity for us all to grow and work together as a community."
A free-will offering will be collected at the performance for the St. Vincent de Paul in L'Anse.
The Bay Area Chorus, which is always welcoming new people, will also start rehearsals in January at L'Anse United Methodist Church for a spring concert featuring Johannes Brahms' "How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place," along with hymns, songs and spiritual songs.