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Rejoice In The Inspired Melodies And Theatrical Mastery Of "Handel's Glorious Messiah," When John Alexander Conducts Pacific Symphony In This Moving Prelude To Christmas
Orange County, Calif. — November 06, 2017
Awe-inspiring sounds of praise ring out as Pacific Symphony is joined by Pacific Chorale for the triumphant annual holiday celebration, “Handel’s Glorious Messiah,” celebrating the birth of Christ. A holiday tradition across the world, “Messiah” has been performed for more than 275 years, but with each new conductor, orchestra and soloists, it becomes a fresh and newly invigorating experience. This year is especially meaningful as Orange County’s own John Alexander (Pacific Chorale’s Artistic Director Emeritus) returns to the podium to lead the Symphony along with the Chorale and a host of globally distinguished soloists, including the outstanding tenor, Jason Francisco. Full of brilliant choral writing, thundering timpani and blazing trumpets, “Messiah” energizes its audience and leaves them singing, “Hallelujah!”
“I very much look forward to taking the podium again for Pacific Symphony’s performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with Pacific Chorale,” says Maestro Alexander. “I place this work right at the top of my list of the greatest works ever written. Although I have conducted this work scores of times during my career, I never tire of it, and always find new and wonderful things every time I return to it.” Handel’s masterpiece takes place on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 3 p.m., at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $25-$196. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
From the very beginning, listeners have found relevance in “Messiah’s” extraordinary music and message, but this year, perhaps more than ever—with so many natural and unnatural disasters taking place across the nation and globe—the comforting beauty of Handel’s glorious work serves to uplift and inspire. Although Handel, a native of Germany, was born in 1685, at the height of the Baroque era, the “Messiah’s” timeless quality is one reason that the work has become by far the most popular oratorio in the world. Another reason, of course, is its stunning bounty of melody and drama.
“The libretto of ‘Messiah’ is a reflection on the prophecy, Nativity, passion, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, found in ancient biblical writings,” says Alexander. “In spite of the libretto’s historical biblical source material, it’s a work that also speaks to listeners from a wider and more varied world view. There is a wonderful positive energy in considering the possibility of rebirth, with assurances that we can find and create a better world for ourselves and future generations. In this time when we are seeking answers to many difficult problems and disputes in this world, it seems very appropriate to go back to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ to remind us of the possibilities of renewal and revitalization, in a spirit of brotherly love.”
Handel’s “Messiah” was completed within 24 days, a stunning achievement for such an expansive work. The text was provided by Charles Jennens, drawn mainly from the biblical books of Isaiah and the gospel of St. Matthew. At the most basic level, “Messiah” is an adaptation in music of the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ, a religious story sung by a chorus and/or soloists accompanied by an orchestra and/or organ. But Handel’s “Messiah” also serves as a conduit, a connection that reaches directly into the human heart. When Handel used his creative genius to combine the power of music with ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told,’ history was made.
“It’s unbelievable to think that Handel wrote this monumental composition in just a few weeks’ time,” remarks Alexander. “However, we should note that he continued to make revisions throughout the rest of his life, adding and subtracting movements, changing roles for the soloists and concepts of orchestration. Consequently, there is no one definitive way to perform ‘Messiah.’ The conductor has the wonderful challenge of choosing from numerous options in planning a performance, which allows each to become a new creative experience.”
Handel was known as the “master of sacred and secular music,” and his talent of composing for voice and instrument shines in this most famous oratorio. With exceptional soloists, chorus and orchestra, it is always a moving experience to tell the ancient story of Jesus’ life, expressed in a most personal artistic statement by Handel, who had just recovered from a stroke when he set the words for “Messiah” to music; his gratitude for having regained his health again can be deeply felt in the music. His immense talent in this piece seems as if it is indeed divine inspiration, with a clear message of religion and exclamation of God’s glory.
There are many accounts of this “divine inspiration” taking place as Handel worked on “Messiah.” In one, his assistant walked into the room where Handel was composing and supposedly found him in tears, pen in hand. When asked what was wrong, the composer replied, “I thought I saw the face of God.”
“One thing that is clear and should be consistent in every performance,” notes Alexander, “is that Handel, in conducting his own performances of the work during his life, wanted to reach into our hearts and create a beautiful and profound experience for the listener. He once wrote that when choosing the soloist to perform the famous aria, ‘He was despised’ because he chose a performer who was primarily an actress, rather than a singer. He said he chose her, because ‘she made me cry’ when she sang the aria. Handel wanted to reach into the hearts of humanity.”
As the composer was creating “Messiah,” it’s hard to imagine he could have foreseen the impact it would have over the centuries. This work has the great spiritual depth of a liturgical masterwork, but as Handel was also one of the most prominent opera composers of his time, it also contains the drama and excitement of a fascinating and thrilling story. It offers a uniquely moving experience as performers unite in one musical spirit. It’s one reason so many return year after year to behold the transformative experience of Handel’s glorious “Messiah.”
“Many are asking what I’m doing in my retirement,” comments Alexander. “For me, retirement is a flexible concept. Although I did indeed retire from Pacific Chorale last year, I have by no means retired as a conductor. While I originally wanted to slow down a little this year, I’m finding that I’m actually as busy as ever, and loving every minute of it!”
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