Sacred Music on the Square is a series of concerts and services offered by Christ Church on Capital Square being given this year in memory of Harrison Smith by his family. Donations received will benefit Urban Ministries of Wake County. The program consisted of a selection of baroque music featuring soprano Sherezade Panthaki, a recognized early-music specialist who has sung with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and many other accomplished early music ensembles. Also featured was the renowned baroque trumpet artist Barry Bauguess, who has performed and recorded widely.

The other members of the ensemble, all performing on period instruments, were mostly members of the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra: Martha Perry and David Wilson, violins, Joey O’Donnell, viola, guest Martha Bishop, cello, and John O’Brien, harpsichord and organ.

The program opened with the dramatic solo motet In furore justissimae irae, RV626, by Antonio Vivaldi. The aria depicts divine wrath at human misdeeds. Stormy and with powerful chromatic descents, it is demanding of the soloist and instrumentalists as well. A brief recitative is a plea for mercy. The second aria, slower and more lyrical, begs the Savior to make us contrite. The closing Alleluia returns to the opening mood, rounding out the work. Panthaki sang with impressive interpretive skill and impeccable technique, and the supporting artists were exemplary.

Playing a baroque trumpet (with tubing about twice the length of a modern trumpet and no valves), Bauguess performed Sonata IV by Georg Muffat (1653-1704). Cast in short sections – Grave, Balletto, Adagio, Menuet, Adagio and Aria – it allowed for an outstanding display of the unique sound this instrument produces and the meticulous embouchure control required to produce that sound.

Next on the program were three arias by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759). From Alexander Balus, we heard “Calm thou my soul… Convey me to some peaceful shore”; from the opera Rinaldo, we heard the very familiar “Lascia ch’io pianga”; and from Samson, the favorite of many, “Let the Bright Seraphim.” The first two of these are among the most exquisitely beautiful melodies Handel penned. They are deeply embedded with longing and human emotion. Panthaki was outstanding in using her voice to express the depth and feeling of the music. Her dynamic control was also impressive and the pianissimo passages were heart-rending with emotion.  Her rendition of Let the Bright Seraphim was thrilling and a clinic on breath control and managing melismatic phrases. Bauguess’ trumpet added something special to this selection.

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) has been undergoing a resurgence of interest in his music, largely due to his phenomenal Rosary (or Mystery) Sonatas. Biber, one of the great violinists of his time, developed techniques and skills that greatly expanded the art of violin playing. We heard the Sonata No IV á Cinque, from his collection of instrumental pieces titled Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes. The wonderfully inventive and original music was played exceptionally well, thus bringing out the buoyant and gentle charm of Biber’s touch.

The program concluded with a glorious performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, S.51. The soprano part, which covers two octaves and calls for a high C, and the solo trumpet part, which at times trades melodic lines with the soprano on an equal basis, are both extremely virtuosic. What a joy it was to hear this work performed by Panthaki and Bauguess! It was glorious and memorable and we are grateful to the Smith family and all of those involved in putting together this outstanding event.

The series continues on November 3. For details, see our calendar.