Subscribe Now

Looking for a wonderful holiday concert close to home? Look no further than the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, (NCMF) presenting its fourth Winter Baroque concert on Sunday, December 15 at 3 p.m. Playing at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport, they’ll be joined by the Newburyport Festival Baroque Orchestra and Nurit Pacht, concertmaster and violinist.

“You can just go and lose yourself for an hour in gorgeous music,” NCMF artistic director David Yang said. “You’ll be transported.” 

Spanning approximately 150 years between 1600 and 1750, the Baroque Era witnessed seismic advances in science, politics, and religion, changing the face of modern Europe. 

“Playing Baroque music is a kind of going back to the basic ingredients of our art form,” Yang said. “The groundwork for rampant chromaticism and atonality, tone poems, symphonies of a thousand, even epic operatic cycles, was laid down well over 300 years ago.”

“The Baroque era is when classical music coalesced into the art form we recognize today,” he continued, “and the music of the Baroque is as sophisticated and profound as anything that followed.” 

The Newburyport Festival Baroque Orchestra, led by returning concertmaster Nurit Pacht, will perform works by J.S. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, and other Baroque giants. 

Mixing smaller works with larger pieces, including a violin sonata by Handel, a cello sonata by Geminiani, and a harpsichord sonata by Scarlatti, the concert opens with J.S. Bach’s “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue,” a virtuosic tour-de-force performed by harpsichordist Michael Sponseller, a frequent performer with the Handel and Haydn Society and Boston Early Music, who will also be the featured soloist for Domenico Scarlatti’s harpsichord sonata. 

Sponseller is recognized as one of the outstanding American harpsichordists of his generation. A highly diversified career has brought him to festivals and concert venues as a recitalist, concerto soloist, and active continuo performer on both harpsichord and organ. Early Music America Magazine has said of his performance of the J.S. Bach concertos, “His well-proportioned elegance carries the day quite stylishly.” 

Violinist Nurit Pacht returns as concertmaster to lead the full six-piece chamber ensemble. As a Baroque violinist, she has a master’s degree from Juilliard’s Historical Performance program and has been featured in events such as the European conference for the inauguration of the Euro in Brussels and a State Department-sponsored recital tour of Ukraine. Pacht performed for Pope Francis on his visit to New York in 2015.

The final work on the program is Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” (“Fatto per la notte di Natale”). Correlli is the father of the concerto grosso, itself the precursor to the modern symphony. 

“The piece ends with a very beautiful pastorale,” Yang said, “a reference to the shepherds of Bethlehem tending their flocks on that momentous night a star appeared in the sky.” 

Yang, a violist, co-founded NCMF in 2002 with Newburyport resident Jane Niebling. A community-based series of chamber music concerts and events in Newburyport, NCMF fosters an interactive partnership between residents and visiting artists by engaging the community in the process of creating and presenting chamber music in Newburyport’s unique architectural spaces. 

Tickets are $32 per adult and $16 for students and youth in advance; $35 per adult and $18 for students and youth at the door. Mass Culture EBT cardholders may reserve up to two $10 tickets per EBT card and show the card at the door. For more information, visit or call 978.701.4914.