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Spine-tingling angelic choruses sing out "Hallelujah!" when Pacific Symphony is joined by Pacific Chorale for sacred holiday favorite: "Handel's Glorious Messiah"
November 22, 2013
With evergreen beauty, thrilling choruses and heavenly melodies, Pacific Symphony’s “Handel’s Glorious Messiah” is as fresh and energizing to the senses as a brand new Christmas tree—the perfect way to start the holiday season! Rejoice in the uplifting “Hallelujah” chorus and thundering timpani as English guest conductor Christopher Seaman conducts from the harpsichord, leading the orchestra and esteemed vocal soloists Caitlin Lynch, soprano; Barbara Rearick, mezzo-soprano; Daniel Shirley, tenor; and Michael Dean, bass-baritone. Pacific Chorale takes the stage, prepared by Robert Istad, assistant conductor and chorus master, and John Alexander, artistic director. Handel’s glowing holiday masterpiece summons bliss within the soul, emphasizing harmony and kindness. One of several holiday concerts offered by the Symphony, “Messiah” takes place Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Tickets are $25-$185; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“One thing that makes ‘Messiah’ and Handel’s oratorios unique was that Handel was a man of faith who believed the words with his whole heart,” says Maestro Seaman. “This gives the music an authenticity and radiance that everybody notices immediately. If you add to that Handel’s genius as a composer of opera, the work has a dramatic side to it as well.”
Born at the height of the Baroque era in 1685, Handel produced both sacred and secular music. Originally from Germany, he traveled to Italy, where he discovered the Italian style of operatic composition before settling in England, where he became the English court’s go-to composer for the nation’s most important ceremonial music. His mastery of all types of vocal and instrumental music forms comes together in “Messiah,” where boundless expressive melodies and immense drama illustrate the grandeur of Christ’s story.
Although “Messiah” was initially composed for performance during Lent, it has been universally adopted as a musical high point of the Advent season. For Handel himself and for millions of listeners, “Messiah” is not only stimulating entertainment but also a deep expression of religious faith that sounds new no matter how many times it’s heard. Charles Jennens drew the libretto directly from the Bible, and Handel enhanced the revelatory emotions and extraordinary intensity of the text through “word painting.” This Baroque technique uses movement in the music notes to imitate a shape or outline that the text describes.
“I don’t need to do anything to keep it fresh—it is fresh anyway. The work is totally evergreen,” says Seaman.
As an artist who has sung, played viola and timpani in “Messiah,” conductor Seaman is no stranger to this popular piece. Seaman has appeared with orchestras in North America, Israel, Eastern Europe, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in his native Great Britain, where he has served as principal conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony and the Northern Sinfonia. “I conduct the piece from the harpsichord, as Handel did,” he explains. “I play in the overture and solo numbers, then for the choruses I pick up a baton and conduct in the usual way. In the Baroque period there weren’t conductors in the modern sense of the word; Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and many others conducted by playing an instrument. That way you can influence what happens sonically as well as visually.”
Declared “luminous” by The New York Times and “eloquent” by the Wall Street Journal, soprano Caitlin Lynch is astonishing audiences with her inspiring portrayals. She recently created the role of Eliza in composer Nico Muhly’s new chamber opera, “Dark Sisters,” which premiered at the Gotham Chamber Opera in New York with subsequent performances at the Opera Company of Philadelphia, co-commissioned by Music-Theatre Group. Another composer captivated by Lynch, Jake Heggie, had her sing the world premiere of his new song cycle, “Another Sunrise,” commissioned by Music of Remembrance in Seattle this past May.
American mezzo-soprano Barbara Rearick has been praised by Opera News for her “tonal beauty” and Gramophone for her “charm and finesse.” Since her 1993 Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s “Messiah,” she has performed internationally with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. She is also a founding member of the Britten-Pears Ensemble, a chamber group specializing in rarely heard contemporary works.
Championing a diverse and challenging repertoire which spans from the early Baroque to the avant-garde, tenor Daniel Shirley is emerging as an audience favorite on the opera and concert stages. He was recognized by the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation with a career development grant, and was a finalist for the George London Foundation awards. Shirley will be featured with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque throughout the season, most notably as tenor soloist in “Israel in Egypt.”
American bass-baritone Michael Dean has appeared with leading opera houses and orchestras of the U.S. and Europe. The New York Times admired his “strong appealing bass-baritone,” while the San Jose Mercury News considered him “the standout, his voice a penetrating wake-up call.” During the 2012-13 season he appeared with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Grand Rapids Symphony, and in the 2013-14 season he performs Handel’s “Messiah” with the Eugene Concert Choir.
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