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Montana Early Music Festival

Musikanten Montana, and lead tenor Daniel Hutchings, accompanied by a period orchestra performed Bach’s St. John Passion at St. Francis Xavier in Missoula in 2015. Many of the performers will be the same this year at the 7:30 p.m. performance on Saturday, Jan. 19, at St. Francis Xavier in Missoula.

Missoula audiences can enjoy a live concert of Bach’s music the way he intended it to be heard on Saturday, Jan. 19.

Musikanten Montana announces the 17th annual Montana Early Music Festival Jan. 17-20, featuring the Montana premiere of Historically Informed Performances (HIP) of J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (part 2).

Following up on the acclaimed 2018 performances of the Christmas Oratorio’s first half, the festival ensemble will perform the final three cantatas of the six the German master composed for the major church festival days of the 1734 Christmas Season in Leipzig.

The concerts will open with Bach’s Epiphany Cantata 65 “Sie werden aus Saba alle komen.”

For the fourth consecutive year, the ensemble will travel to four Montana cities – Bozeman, Butte, Missoula and Helena.

Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Rosary in Bozeman, on Thursday, Jan. 17; Immaculate Conception in Butte on Friday, Jan. 18; and St. Francis Xavier in Missoula on Saturday, Jan. 19. The final festival concert is in Helena at 3 p.m. on Sunday Jan. 20, at the Cathedral of St. Helena.

Musikanten Montana Artistic Director Kerry Krebill will conduct the vocal soloists, chamber orchestra and singers of Musikanten Montana in this joyous work.

Krebill said she is eager to tour four Montana cities.

“These are incredible singers and players and it is a fabulous piece of music,” she said. “I only choose fabulous pieces of music because it is a waste of your life not to hear great music. If we’ve got it, I would like to share it. I think it is so important for people to hear this music.”

A 17-member chamber orchestra will play period instruments — Baroque oboes, bassoon and flauti dolci (recorders), natural trumpets and horns, gut strings and historic timpani — either actual 18th-century instruments or modern replicas. Players come from early music hotspots of Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, Indianapolis, Boston, Denver and more. Leading the orchestra as concertmaster will be Montana Early Music Festival favorite Carrie Krause, concertmaster of the Bozeman Symphony, and member of Apollo’s Fire and other world-renowned early music ensembles. Organist Keith Reas and ‘cellist Sarah Stone are the continuo players. Vocal soloists are Amanda Balestrieri (soprano), Anne Kania (contralto), Daniel Hutchings and Thomas Gregg (tenors) and Bobb Robinson (baritone), all specialists in music before 1800.

Krebill said the audiences will love the presentations of J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (part 2).

“It has three trumpets, timpani and two horns which you don’t typically get in Bach,” she said. “It is exciting and uplifting. In the last cantata the horns are featured and then the trumpets come in like gangbusters.”

The period instruments are beautiful and the audience is invited to come up during intermission to see the old instruments closer.

“We are playing three different types of oboes, the hunting horns are big and loud and curve down between the player’s legs,” Krebill said. “These different instruments are fun to be able to see.”

Krebill said the opening cantata, The Three Kings, helps audiences visualize imagery reflecting the symbolism.

“The opening sounds like the camels coming across the desert and then gold, frankincense and myrrh,” she said. “The instruments are recorders and they have ancient significance for funerals. Horns represent frankincense. There are two oboes, two horns and two recorders and they sometimes all play together and they are fantastic artists.”

Krebill said the Musikanten Montana choir sings throughout the performance.

“We have two lead tenors as there is so much,” she said. “Last year one did it all and he said it was too much. We always leave the lights on so the audience can read the words because we think the words are so important.”

The Montana Early Music Festival with Historically Informed Performances is a nearly $40,000 production and the cost was initially covered by grants, according to Krebill, and provided free admission for audiences.

Current admission prices do not cover the cost of the festival but are necessary.

Seating for the concerts is general admission and costs $35 for the Missoula perofrmance, with a reserved section for Musikanten Angel donors and homeschool students. Tickets will be available at the door, as well as at outlets in Helena, Missoula and Hamilton. For more information call 406-442-6825 or visit