Coming from a region of 6,000-foot peaks and freezing temperatures to a Southern city 5 feet below sea level, Andrew Palmer Todd is looking forward to warming up in the Crescent City for a few days, as well as warming up on the 88s. He will be making his New Orleans performance debut Saturday night alongside the five-member Lyrica Baroque chamber ensemble.
Todd, a classical pianist and president/CEO of Wyoming’s Grand Teton Music Festival, will be one of two guest artists coming here for Lyrica Baroque’s “A Lyrical Christmas” concert at Christ Church Cathedral on St. Charles Avenue. He'll accompany the other musicians on piano on most selections.
“It’s going to be a very exciting time for me,” Todd said. “I’ve never had a chance to do a concert this close to Christmas, and I’m going to enjoy it. Especially in New Orleans with its great classical music tradition.”
Todd has previously worked with two of Lyrica Baroque’s founding members, oboist Jaren Atherholt and bassoonist Ben Atherholt, at the summerlong festival in Wyoming’s scenic Jackson Hole. “I’m very honored that they chose to invite me to come down and perform with them,” Todd said.
In what has now become a tradition, the program selections for Lyrica Baroque’s third annual holiday concert will be largely Christmas-themed. They will include the “Rejoice Greatly” aria from Handel’s “Messiah,” “O Holy Night” with a new arrangement by Ben Atherholt, several “Bach Preludes” and other traditional Christmas songs. Also on the program is Antonio Lotti’s “Trio Sonata in G-major” and Camille Saint-Saens “The Swan” for cello and piano.
Soprano Sarah Jane McMahon, a core member of Lyrica Baroque, will sing the Handel selection and several other pieces. The Atherholts will perform on their respective instruments, along with Daniel Lelchuk on cello. Guest artist, Rebecca Corruccini, from the Minnesota Orchestra, will be filling in for Lyrica Baroque’s regular violinist, Joseph Meyer.
“There are going to be both familiar and unfamiliar pieces in the program,” Lelchuk said. “We love to do the Baroque arias, especially Handel and Bach, and we’re pleased to be doing the Lotti piece. It’s a fantastic piece of work and he was one of the most colorful of the Italian baroque composers. It’s going to be a great showcase for the keyboard and the string section.
“The whole philosophy of Lyrica Baroque is oftentimes taking an aria or a piece that you know well but re-formatting it for the instrumentation of our ensemble,” Lelchuk said. He noted that Ben Atherholt’s arrangements are customized versions of the original pieces. "We’re not changing what the composers wrote, but only adapting them slightly to conform to our usual instrumentation.”
The concert seems to have struck a chord with local audiences, who overflowed last year's venue in St. Mary’s Church in the French Quarter. It's back at Christ Church, where 900 people attended the launch two years ago.
“It’s going to be a really fun program and Christ Church Cathedral is such a beautiful space to host a concert like this,” Lelchuk said. “I encourage anyone who’s coming to get there early to make sure they can get a seat.”
“Music has this way of putting you where you belong,” Todd said. “There’s nothing better than working with some people you don’t know and some you do know and having this shared language of music. Everybody’s a professional and you know the performance is going to go very very well.”
Lyrica Baroque will be, once again, co-sponsoring — with New Orleans Friends of Music — the annual NOLA ChamberFest at Loyola University from April 7-9. The festival features a chamber competition in five categories ranging from grade school level to graduate students and community members unaffiliated with an educational institution.
The competition will be followed by a winners’ showcase performance and a featured performance in the Friends of Music concert series by the Miró Quartet, accompanied by Steve Cohen on clarinet.
A Lyrical Christmas
Annual Christmas concert by Lyrica Baroque chamber ensemble with special guests
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23
WHERE: Christ Church Cathedral
2919 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans
TICKETS: Free. Suggested donation $20