MEMBERS of the Durham Cathedral Choir are preparing to perform Handel’s Messiah as part of their special Advent programme

The choir, led by Daniel Cook, master of the choristers and organist of the cathedral, will join by the Avison Ensemble for a festive period performance of Handel’s famous oratorio, at Durham Cathedral, on Saturday, December 15 at 7.30pm.

The Avison Ensemble, one of England’s foremost exponents of 18th century music on period instruments, will be led by Pavlo Beznosiuk on the night.

The Messiah was composed by Handel in 1741 and was a piece he continued to perfect until 1754, when the oratorio became the version known today.

The performance will include breath-taking solo arias from members of the choir, including Ev’ry valley shall be exalted and Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, which will be immersed with choral sections telling the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and final victory over sin and death.

The piece will also feature the familiar Hallelujah chorus, one of the most famous pieces of baroque choral music.

Mr Cook said: “Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a performance of Handel’s Messiah.

“The narrative of this famous work includes passages from the Christmas story and is sure to set the festive scene in style. “Our performance will differ from the normal concert performances in that several of the solos will be taken by the young boy and girl choristers, which, coupled with the incomparable surroundings of Durham Cathedral, will add to the poignancy and drama of this amazing work.”

He added: “There are very few people now who wouldn’t be able to recognise some elements of the Messiah now.

“But when people come and sit through the journey of the whole piece, it is just such a wonderful way to experience the musical genius of Handel.

“The children when they come out of taking part in it will have progressed far beyond just the amount of time it taken to perform it.

“It has a way of being transformative for both the performers and the audience and that is why we do it.”

Places for pre-concert dinner at the cathedral’s Undercroft restaurant at 5pm can be reserved for £25 per person. It includes a mulled wine reception and a varied three-course course festive menu.

Concert tickets range from £8 to £28 and are available from the cathedral’s visitor desk on 0191-338 7178.