While Santa Fe Pro Musica’s “A Baroque Christmas” concerts are an annual event, they’re anything but ordinary for the players involved.
“They’re exhilarating,” said flutist and associate music director Carol Redman. “The music we play is from one of the greatest eras in music history, the Baroque era. These concerts fill our souls.”
Taking place from Friday, Dec. 20 through Dec. 24 at Loretto Chapel, “A Baroque Christmas” features instrumental and vocal music as well as a selection of carols.
“The music we play is a lot of work,” said Redman. “It’s important that we program pieces that speak to us over and over again because we have to sustain our energy over five nights.”
The program begins with an instrumental work, Concerto Pastorale by Johann Melchior Molter, that involves all instrumentalists. The Baroque pastoral originated from an old Italian folk custom. For the Christmas season, a pastorale was inserted into a concerto or other composition to transform it into a celebration of the nativity.
Two arias by George Frideric Handel follow, “Mi lusinga il dolce affetto” (who will reveal to me if I am deceived) and “Furibondo spira il vento” (furiously blows the wind).
From the opera “Alcina,” “Mi lusinga il dolce affetto” expresses the confusion and fear that the warrior Ruggiero feels about possibly losing his beloved. “Furibondo spira il vento” from the opera “Partenope” communicates Prince Arsace’s anguish with feeling love for two different women.
Guest soloists are mezzo-sopranos Deborah Domanski, who has appeared at the Santa Fe Opera and recently debuted with Opera Hong Kong, and Dianna Grabowski, an opera singer who also is featured as a concert soloist with organizations worldwide including Orpheus Chamber Singers.
The strings play Henry Purcell’s Fantasy on a Ground in D Major. As composer to King Charles II, Purcell had a duty to write music for the king’s string players. Fantasy upon a Ground in D Major is one of those works.
Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto in E Minor for Recorder, Flute and Strings showcases the winds. A prolific composer, Telemann wrote concertos for many string and wind instruments but only one work for recorder and the traverso flute.
“I’ve played the Telemann twice before,” said Redman. “It’s like a great novel. There are layers to discover about it. Telemann takes the old-fashioned flute, the recorder, and pairs it with the new flute, the traverso flute. While both instruments play in the same range, the quality of sound and shapes of the phrases are different. Sometimes we’re in a dialogue with each other and sometimes we work together and play in dialogue with the strings.”
Santa Fe Pro Musica has selected a group of lesser-known but very melodic carols to close the concert. Among them are “Masters in this Hall,” “Lo, how a rose is blooming” and “Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep.”