The 16 members of the Kingdon Choir are drawn from greater London, England, and mostly comprise singers of African heritage. Portland Ovations hosts the Kingdom Choir on Saturday. Contributed

A pair of fine vocal ensembles dominates this week’s top picks in the performing arts, and they hail from near and afar.

Oratorio Chorale, a venerable Midcoast musical organization, presents two performances of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Israel in Egypt,” with text drawn from the Bible’s Book of Exodus. Saturday’s performance is in Portland, while Sunday’s is in Brunswick.

The 16-voice Kingdom Choir hails from greater London, England, and comprises mostly members of African heritage who sing in the British gospel tradition. Portland Ovations has booked the choir’s international tour for Saturday.

Southern Maine’s Larry Williams Band plays jazz, blues, show tunes and American songbook standards. They’ll play this Saturday in Portland.

VentiCordi, a classical ensemble formed around an oboe-violin sonic axis, holds forth in Portland on Sunday.

Oratorio Chorale

One of the English language’s greatest Biblical oratorios will be performed twice this weekend. George Frideric Handel’s “Israel in Egypt,” with text drawn from the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus, will be performed by the Midcoast-based Oratorio Chorale in Portland and Brunswick.

The Chorale will be conducted by artistic director Emily Isaacson, and the performing forces will include instrumentalists from the Maine Music Society and nationally known soloists.

In the middle of the 1700s, the German-born Handel was the toast of English society, with a large popular following for both his sacred and secular music. He wrote two oratorios on Biblical themes, with “Messiah” being far better known.

Two performances are slated: 3 p.m. Nov. 9 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland, and 3 p.m. Nov. 10 at St. John the Baptist Church, 39 Pleasant St. in Brunswick. Call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006.

Kingdom Choir

You might call it Markle sparkle. Two decades after forming, the London, England-based Kingdom Choir got international television exposure and acclaim when performing at the 2018 royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle.

Their signature song for the occasion was “Stand By Me,” and a few months after the wedding, the Kingdom Choir released a debut recording with that title. Now the ensemble is on a world tour, and the last stop on the North American leg will be Saturday in a concert at Merrill Auditorium hosted by Portland Ovations.

The 16 members of the choir are drawn from greater London’s African diaspora. Founder, conductor and artistic director is Karen Gibson, who has been described as Britain’s “godmother of gospel.” The ensemble performs a spectrum of material, ranging from sacred gospel to gospel-infused pop. For example, “Stand By Me” was originally a hit for Ben E. King, an African-American pop singer in 1961. The title was indirectly inspired by Psalm 46. Kingdom Choir gave new life and spiritual luster to this American popular classic.

Portland Ovations presents the Kingdom Choir at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTIX at 842-0800.

Larry Williams Band

When Tony Boffa retired from leading his eponymous band in 2015, many mourned the absence of the seminal Maine musician who had played thousands of gigs with his nine-man band.

But the same artistic concept – and with Boffa’s own arrangements – has continued, thanks to one of Boffa’s bandmates. Larry Williams, who played with Boffa for a dozen years, has his own nine-piece ensemble. Like Boffa, this band mainly plays weddings and other private functions, but this Saturday the ensemble is slated for a rare public performance.

It’s a youngish group, featuring recent graduates from music programs and several high school and college educators, including himself, music director at Poland High School, and Craig Skeffington, who holds the same position in South Portland.

Catch the Larry Williams Band at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at One Longfellow Square, corner of Congress and State in Portland. Call 761-1757.

VentiCordi

Winds and strings: That’s the formula and (translated) Latin namesake of VentiCordi, a southern Maine classical music ensemble that revolves around oboe virtuoso Kathleen McNerney and the Portland String Quartet’s first violinist, Dean Stein.

Because so little music has been written for an oboe-violin pairing, McNerney and Stein invite a group of colleagues for each concert. The result is some really interesting repertoire that juxtaposes the contrasting sonic signatures of the two classes of instruments. I’ve heard them quite a few times and really like their concept and execution.

This Sunday, VentiCordi includes clarinetist Gary Gorczyca, violist Kimberly Lehmann and Tony D’Amico on double bass. Four pieces are on the program, two by well-known classical composers, Michael Haydn and Sergei Prokoviev, and two by contemporaries, Torbjorn Helander and Harold Schiffman.

Catch VentiCordi at 2 p.m. Nov. 10 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call 761-1522.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: