Handel Choir announces 75th anniversary season
Given the losses and near-losses experienced in the local arts scene during the Great Recession so far, it's heartening to see that the Handel Choir of Baltimore has survived its own financial struggles this season and is gearing up to mark its 75th anniversary.
The ensemble, which has gained remarkable musical ground with artistic director and conductor Melinda O'Neal, will, of course, include Handel's Messiah during the anniversary season, an annual tradition since 1935. There will be another nod to the choir's namesake -- a staged presentation of his last oratorio, Jephtha, in a co-production with Tim Nelson's American Opera Theater. Messiah and Jephtha will feature period instrument orchestras.
Handel plays a subtle role in the rest of the season. O'Neal has chosen repertoire that reflects the composer's influence on choral music over the ages. The season will open in a collaboration with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra's own season-opener (the BCO is another survivor of a very dicey financial situation this year). The chorus will perform two pieces by Mendelssohn. That composer's Elijah was performed in Baltimore by a group that subsequently formed the Handel Choir -- providing a neat little resonance for the 75th anniversary starter.
The popularity of Handel's oratorios in England led to a major choral tradition in that country, which spread to America. That Handelian connection will be acknowledged in a program of British and American music, including the Mass in G minor by Vaughan Williams and works by Ives, Thompson, Britten and Tavener.
Here's a little teaser for the Handel Choir's 2009-2010 season, the Benedictus from that exquisite Mass by Vaughan Williams: