Experience the world’s most beloved choral work as it was always intended, with stellar soloists, a world-renowned conductor and some interesting yet controversial ideas.

MARCH 1 , 2016 — First performed in the spring of 1742, this musical masterpiece by George Frideric Handel has become one of the world’s most beloved musical works.  Although more traditionally performed during Christmastime, this timeless Baroque masterpiece was intended by Handel as an Easter offering.

The critically acclaimed Orpheus Chamber Singers from Dallas will return for a collaboration on this monumental oratorio with conductor John Butt, whose recent recording of the Mozart Requiem with the Dunedin Consort won a Gramophone Award in 2014. 

An Easter Messiah will be a performance of the complete work, with a cast of stellar soloists, like tenor Aaron Sheehan (2015 Grammy Winner for Best Opera Recording) and soprano Melissa Givens, and full Baroque orchestra lead by Artistic Director Matthew Dirst. Full of glorious choruses and moving solos, this grand oratorio will showcase some of Handel’s most inspired works, including “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted,” “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion” and the famous “Hallelujah” chorus.

Nearing 275 years, the controversy surrounding the music of Messiah still attracts scholars across the globe to debate on the history and meaning of it all.  In recognition of the timelessness of this debate, Ars Lyrica has partnered with the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, in conjunction with the performance, for a very special event:   

“AND HIS BURTHEN IS LIGHT"? HANDEL'S MESSIAH and ITS CULTURAL BAGGAGE — This symposium takes place at the Moores School of Music, (Room 160) University of Houston, on Friday, April 1 from 2:30-4:30 pm. Featured speakers include Michael Marissen, author of Tainted Glory in Handel’s Messiah: The Unsettling History of the World’s Most Beloved Choral Work (Yale University Press, 2014); and John Butt, Matthew Dirst and Jeffrey Sposato of the Moores School musicology faculty.

n Easter Messiah performance will take place on Saturday, April 2, at 7:30p.m., at ZILKHA HALL, HOBBY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 800 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002. Tickets range from $37 to $59. Student tickets are $22. A limited number of concert tickets for this performance will also be available at the Hobby Center Box Office up to one hour prior to concert start time.  To purchase tickets, visit the Ars Lyrica Houston website or call the Hobby Center Box Office at 713-315-2525


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Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston and it also appears regularly at major festivals and conferences, including the 2014 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition. Ars Lyrica’s distinctive programming favors Baroque dramatic and chamber works, and its pioneering efforts have won international acclaim: the ensemble’s world première recording of Johann Adolf Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, hailed by Early Music America as “a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality,” was nominated for a Grammy Award® for Best Opera 2011. Both the Hasse recording and Ars Lyrica’s recording of Domenico Scarlatti’s comic intermezzo La Dirindina feature 2013 Cardiff Singer of the World Jamie Barton, who returns for a program with the ensemble during the 2015/16 season. Details about Ars Lyrica’s latest recordings and upcoming programs can be found at


Soprano Melissa Givens moves and excites audiences and critics alike with a rich, powerful tone, crystalline clarity, and intelligent musical interpretations. Especially noted for her expressiveness and elegance on the stage, she's been hailed as a singer whose music making is “consistently rewarding” and “a pleasure to hear,” [Houston Chronicle]. Givens is also an extremely versatile artist, regularly performing repertoire from the Baroque era through music of the 21st century. An Early Music America review of her performance in the 2011 Boston Early Music Festival Fringe Concerts praised her voice as “beautiful and rich, [singing] Baroque music with conviction.” She serves on the faculties of Sam Houston State University and Texas Southern University. Givens holds DMA, MM, and BM degrees and is an alumna of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, and Davidson College.

Tenor AARON SHEEHAN has established himself as a first rate singer in many styles. His voice is heard regularly in the United States, South America, and Europe, and he is equally comfortable in repertoire ranging from oratorio and chamber music, to the opera stage. His singing has taken him to many festivals and venues including; Tanglewood, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Washington National Cathedral, the early music festivals of Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver, Houston, Tucson, Washington DC, and Madison, as well as the Regensburg Tage Alter Musik.  Aaron also continues to work extensively in the chamber music world. He has sung with Theater of Voices, Blue Heron Choir, Tenet, Fortune's Wheel, La Donna Musicale, Folger Consort, Newberry Consort, Dünya, The Rose Ensemble, and the Pro Arte Singers. Aaron has appeared on many recordings, including the Grammy nominated operas Thésée and Psyché of Lully, recorded with BEMF on the CPO label. A native of Minnesota, Aaron holds a BA from Luther College and a MM in Early Voice Performance from Indiana University. He is currently on the voice faculties of Boston University, Wellesley College, and Towson University. 

Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock is widely admired as a performer of interpretive eloquence and technical sparkle. A frequent soloist, concertmaster, and leader with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, the Santa Fe Pro Musica, and the Italian ensemble Il Complesso Barocco, she is also a member of several of California’s finest period instrument ensembles, including Musica Pacifica, Trio Galatea, the Arcadian Academy, and Trio Galanterie. She has appeared with period orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the United States and abroad, and has performed for the Boston and Berkeley Early Music Festivals, Germany's Goettingen Handelfestspiel, Los Angeles Opera, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Oulunsalo Soi festival in Finland, and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, among many others. With over 90 recordings to her credit, she has recorded for harmonia mundi, Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin Classics, Dorian, BMG, Reference Recordings, and Koch International. She is instructor of baroque violin at the University of Southern California, and has taught at the International Baroque Institute at Longy, Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute, and the Austrian Baroque Academy, and has coached university Baroque ensembles at USC, Roosevelt University, the University of Virginia, and California Institute of the Arts.

Ars Lyrica Founder & Artistic Director MATTHEW DIRST, the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and the Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993). Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting, the Dallas Morning News recently praised his “clear and evocative conducting” of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, which “yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish.” Dirst’s recordings with Ars Lyrica have earned a Grammy nomination and widespread critical acclaim. His degrees include a PhD in musicology from Stanford University and the prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison, France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar. Equally active as a scholar and as an organist, Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, and Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston. His book Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. He is also the editor of Bach and the Organ, which appears in the Bach Perspectives series from the University of Illinois Press in early 2016.

For a complete line-up of Ars Lyrica Houston's performances and information, artists and events, including education programming, visit  WWW.ARSLYRICAHOUSTON.ORG