Christmas wouldn’t be complete with Handel’s Messiah, and a candlelit performance always feels particularly festive.

This is certainly the aim of Eboracum Baroque, a recently-formed ensemble consisting mainly of graduate musicians from across the UK. When they bring their Messiah to Oxford’s University Church this weekend, it will be complete with candles and period instruments to give the Handel a classic both a festive and an authentic feel.

“We’re really keen on performing on the instruments of the time,” explains Chris Parsons, the group’s founder and director. “So we try to perform the music as it would have been heard at the time Handel wrote it. “The string instruments are all gut strings, as they would have been at the time, and the trumpets don’t have any valves - they’re natural trumpets, so they make quite a different sound. Hopefully this is what Handel would have heard, and it’s exciting to think that although this music was written in 1740 we’re bringing it to the 21st century.”

Chris, a trumpeter, formed the ensemble in January 2012 while studying at the University of York — from which the group takes its name. “Eboracum is the Latin name for York, so we called it after that. “It started originally just as an in-house, music department kind of thing. Then I moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music in September 2012, and it stemmed from there, really.

“We’re a like-minded group of young performers who wanted to gain experience, going all over the place and performing. The core of people graduated from the University of York, but because I was at the Royal College of Music there’s a few RCM people as well. The whole group is people under 25, who are either in full-time education at a music conservatoire or at that stage between university and a professional career.

“The idea is to bridge that gap between the nice, four walls of a music conservatoire and the real world of performing. So we’re trying to gain professional experience for singers and instrumentalists, just to get our names out there and hopefully get our careers lifting off.”

The size of the group varies according to the concert programme, but for Messiah will be about 25 people, made up of 12 singers and a small orchestra. Ticket prices for Messiah are deliberately being kept low to attract as wide an audience as possible. “One of the group’s aims is to make it accessible for everyone,” explains Chris. “We’re hoping that the concerts we do open classical music out to people. I think that’s important.”

Saturday’s concert will be Eboracum Baroque’s first visit to Oxford. “I’m looking forward to coming,” Chris says. “It’s very exciting. I believe it’s a wonderful venue, and it’s right in the middle of Oxford, which is why I chose it, so hopefully we’ll have a good audience. “Doing it by candlelight will add a festive atmosphere and hopefully the church will be looking splendid for Christmas to add to the occasion, so it should be a really festive evening.”

Handel’s Messiah by Candlelight

University Church of St Mary, Oxford
Saturday, 7.30pm

* 4 Girls 4 Harps

St John the Evangelist Church, Iffley Road
Wednesday, 7.30pm

A chance to hear popular Christmas classics played by Europe’s leading harp ensemble, including The Holly and the Ivy, I Saw Three Ships, and Greensleeves.