St. Luke's Episcopal Church offered an early beginning to the artistry of the holiday season on Friday evening with a grand performance of J.S. Bach's ''Magnificat.''
The music is a setting of the Canticle of Mary, from the Gospel According to Luke. The words are those spoken by the Virgin Mary, upon being told she was to become the mother of the Messiah.
Andrew Schmidt, director of music for the church was the conductor. Performing was the choir of St. Luke's, joined by a number of volunteers from the community, bringing the number of singers to more than 30. The work was accompanied by an ensemble of eight musicians, who were called the St. Luke's Chamber Orchestra.
The beautiful chancel of the church, which has been disassembled recently for the sake of convenience, was restored to its traditional beauty, to better fit the instrumentalists and the large ensemble of singers, creating architectural beauty and balance to go with musical beauty.
The evening began with a welcome by the Rev. Eric M. Williams, who is rector of the large Episcopal church. The audience was then invited to sing a hymn, celebrating the role of music in worship. There followed a series of short solo and small ensemble works.
Violinist Brittany Baglia began with ''Serenade in C Major,'' by Franz Joseph Haydn, with organ accompaniment. Violinist Margaret Williams and cellist Bryan Eckenrode then performed two works by J.S. Bach.
The first half of the program concluded with an organ solo, ''Trumpet Tune,'' performed by Schmidt, which was both majestic in nature and boasted beautiful voicing, so that the elements of the music were always easy to follow and beautifully highlighted.
During a short intermission, while a freewill offering was taken to help with the expenses of the concert, for which no admission was charged, Peter Dawson gave a brief biography of Bach and explained the nature and the scope of his music.
''Magnificat'' was the entire second half of the program. The music is joyous and youthful, demonstrating Bach's belief in the joyousness of the birth of Christ, and his understanding of the extreme youth of Mary.
The instrumentalists and the choir were usually well in balance. Only occasionally did a solo voice not quite equal the volume of the eight instruments. The orchestra was made up of first violins Margaret Williams and Brittany Baglia, second violinist Cathy Regis-Green, and cellist Bryan Eckenrode. Timpanist was Craig Ridgeway. Ron McEntire was the organist, while Susan Turnquist performed on oboe and Mark Lentsch was trumpeter.
The vocal soloists for the evening were sopranos Victoria McIlvain and Ruth Yancey-Walton, alto Catherine Way, tenor James Beal, and bass Peter Bumsted.
Our community is richly blessed with artistic talents in all fields, and even more richly blessed by the willingness of our friends and neighbors to learn and perform such a demanding and complex work, plus the willingness of a large audience of people to attend and make the experience a major event. Bravo to one and all.