Baroque Trivia: Five Crazy Facts About Handel’s Messiah

IMG_2875It’s a good thing that Peanut wasn’t GF Handel’s dog — he never would have put up for being ignored during that 3-week period when the master composed Messiah!  You can see that Mr. Peanut is ready for the holidays in this photo, wearing his little hunter’s cap. The little guy is surprisingly good natured about having his photo taken! Here’s some interesting trivia about this beloved piece for your reading pleasure:

  1.  Messiah is rich with vast effects derived from simple means,  along with beautiful melodies and the insistent rhythms that are characteristic of the Baroque era, easy to love and hard to forget.
  2. The Music gains extraordinary intensity through the Baroque compositional technique of “word painting,” in which the flow of notes in the music actually seems to replicate a shape or contour that the words describe.
  3. Papa Haydn, always generously praising the merits of other composers, called Handel “der Meister von uns allen,” or  “the master of us all” at a performance of Messiah. But Beethoven, who was far more grudging with his approval, used almost the same words—“der unerreichte Meister aller Meisters,” “the unequalled master of all masters.”

  4. images-13The association between diva soprano and the soprano solo role in Messiah extends more than a century earlier, back to the legendary Jenny Lind, who barnstormed the U.S. as a Barnum-sponsored headliner in the 1840s. On one of her transatlantic crossings, the Swedish Nightingale asked the ship’s captain to wake her before dawn, without specifying a reason for her request. At the appointed hour, she stood with him at the ship’s railing as the sun rose over the waters and sang “I Know My Redeemer Liveth.”

  5.  Handel’s Messiah continues to exert a very real influence upon modern composers.  Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, composed in 1971, brings together music, dance and diverse religious and secular traditions in a way that owes much to Handel.  Andrew Lloyd Webber—like Handel, a master of theatrical craft in music—wrote a requiem mass as his only full- scale classical work. Paul McCartney, too, ventured into oratorio with his only classical work, The Liverpool Oratorio.

    This year will be the tenth annual performance of Messiah by the Long Beach Camerata Singers.  The chorus will be accompanied by Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra
    Camerata sings Handel’s Messiah.  TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE $40.  www.LBCamerata.org or call 562-373-5654.  Sunday December 3, 4:30pm, Beverly O’Neill Theater

     

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5 Big Reasons to Hear Camerata Perform Handel’s Messiah on Sunday!

IMG_2892Mr. Peanut is getting ready for the Holidays.  If you watched his Thanksgiving Message, you know he is expecting lots of goodies.  Today Peanut would like to recommend that you attend the upcoming performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Long Beach Camerata Singers — it’s a holiday tradition!  Here are 5 big reasons to attend this year’s show:

  1.  Bring Family and Friends Together — In a world laden with consumer goods, why not invest in an afternoon with the people who are important in your life?  Put down the cell phone, step away from the computer and, yes, visit with people — in person!  You won’t regret it.
  2. Build Traditions that Endure — It is important for both children and adults to have traditions in their lives, traditions that define the season and create memories; traditions that can be passed on to future generations.  Traditions loom large when we remember our childhoods.  If you don’t already have a holiday musical tradition, our concert is the perfect place to start.
  3. The Beauty of the MusicIMG_2303There’s a reason why this piece of music has endured for almost 300 years — it’s unbelievably beautiful!  The compelling melodies, the dramatic arias and the powerful recitatives never fail to thrill.  You will be surprised at how much of the music is familiar to you — and don’t forget the Hallelujah Chorus.  Be prepared to stand for that one!
  4. The Power of the Message — Regardless of your belief system, Messiah is filled with important reminders of our highest values.  Goodwill toward others, hope for a better life, comfort for those in distress:  these are the impulses that build our character.  It doesn’t matter if you attend church, or which denomination, if any, your subscribe to.
  5. Get a Brain Massage — Give your poor, overworked brain a rest!  images-18Allow the sounds of the chorus, soloists and orchestra to flow through you !  Close your eyes and float on the river of sound.  Your brain will be washed clean of electronic beeps, digital images and the cluttered detritus of our daily lives for this small piece of time.
This year will be the tenth annual performance of Messiah by the Long Beach Camerata Singers.  The chorus will be accompanied by Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra.
Camerata sings Handel’s Messiah.  TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE $30/$45.  www.LBCamerata.org or call 562-373-5654.  Sunday December 3, 4:30pm Beverly O’Neill  Theater

What’s Your Sign?: The Camerata Peace Project

Because inclusion and belonging are the overriding theme for our Peace Project concert on Sunday, we want to make this beautiful concert accessible to a group that you wouldn’t normally associate with music — the deaf community.  However, it turns out that music plays a significant role, both therapeutically and recreationally in the lives of deaf people.  That is why we will have a song signer at our concert on Sunday.

So, how can the hearing-impaired enjoy music?  According to one   young man, they “Feel” the music and “listen with the heart.”  Here is a heartwarming video called “How Deaf People Enjoy Music:” https://www.facebook.com/aimediaAUS/videos/10155189131339220/?id=100010747232096

Deaf people often retain some degree of hearing.  In addition to sound, the tactile, the visual, and the kinesthetic all play important roles in deaf perceptions of music.  Song-signing performances use four principal forms of expression: music, lyrics, the signs of ASL, and other gestures independent of the signed language (i.e. dancing, swaying, pulsing, etc.).  One of the earliest records of song signing can be found in a film project by the National Association of the Deaf, produced between 1910 and 1920

The song signer portrays musical elements like rhythm, pitch, phrasing, and timbre through productive musical signs and non-linguistic gestures.  In fact, many song signing videos have gone viral on YouTube, and people are beginning to understand that signing can enrich the musical experiences of the deaf and hearing alike.  Song signing presents us with an opportunity to expand our understanding of familiar songs and to experience them in new ways.

Join us for The Camerata Peace Project on Sunday for an incredibly rich experience, including song signing!  Here is a link for tickets: http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/camerata-peace-project/

Peace by Piece: The Camerata Peace Project

How we spend our time IS very important.   As we have seen this week, some people spend their time planning the cruelest deeds imaginable.  Not us, no not us.   We spend our time making our community better.

And making our community better is exactly what Long Beach Camerata Singers is all about. That is why our first concert this year is The Camerata Peace Project – how timely is that??? Now more than ever . . . we need to keep reminding ourselves that decency, goodness and belonging are alive and well, and that is exactly what we will be singing about in our concert on Sunday.

 Without pause or second thought, all of the singers are working together to create a work of art. Musical performance is without question an endeavor towards peace. On Sunday you will hear music representing many styles, religious traditions, cultural differences and generations. We hope that this afternoon will be unlike any “concert” you have ever experienced …and is instead a visual and sonic representation of community at its very best. 

The concert is comprised of a series of individual pieces from many different traditions — Pop/Folk (Gilkyson’s “Reqiem”), African-American (“Lift Every Voice and Sing”) Hebrew (“Hine Ma Tov”), Russian (Rachmaninoff’s  “Bogoroditse Devo”) and so much more.  Peace by Piece . . . each piece of music will add to your understanding and sense of belonging.      

Please come and spend an afternoon with us! Our music and our message has no meaning without your ears!  We promise you will leave moved and inspired 

 

An Anthem of Compassion: Eliza Gilkyson’s “Requiem”

Camerata’s Peace Project Concert on October 8 will be filled with fantastic repertoire.  My very favorite piece is “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson.  This absolutely beautiful piece of music is full of lament, and, ultimately,  hope.  It also has a very interesting history.

Gilkyson wrote “Requiem” in 2004 in response to the Asian Tsunami disaster.  In an interview with NPR, she revealed that she wanted to write a mass, and even considered using Latin text.  She researched female deities of many religious and cultural traditions, but kept coming back to Mary.  She used lower case exclusively in the text to signify the universal female comforter.

The composer recorded “Requiem” on her Paradise Lost album using  only two voices — hers and her daughter’s.  Her intent, exquisitely fulfilled, was to pair an innocent upper voice with a more world-weary lower voice.  Use this link for the NPR interview and the Gilkyson recording of the piece:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4847831

The story of Gilkyson’s “Requiem” doesn’t stop there.  As a matter of cosmic coincidence, both Gilkyson and  Craig Hella Johnson, Artistic Director of the professional choir Conspirare, resided in Austin, Texas, and the rest is history.  In 2006 Johnson produced a piano-and-chorus arrangement of “Requiem,” the very arrangement that Camerata will be singing on October 8.  In a blog posting by Conspirare, Johnson describes the piece as “an anthem of compassion.”  Click here for Johnson’s remarks and a Conspirare performance of the piece: https://conspirare.org/inspire/requiem/

Please join us on October 8 to hear the Gilkyson/Johnson version of “Requiem,” as well as many more wonderful choral nuggets.  To purchase tickets please visit Camerata’s website:  http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/camerata-peace-project/

 

Peace Be With You: The Camerata Peace Project

When our new Artistic Director, James Bass, suggested that we perform a concert around the theme of Peace, we were intrigued.  That concept has grown into a community effort that we are calling The Camerata Peace Project, and it will take place on Sunday, October 8 2017.

This first Peace Project — the first of five annual events — will revolve around the theme of diversity and inclusion, the the importance of a sense of belonging.  The centerpiece of the concert is “We Can Mend the Sky” by contemporary composer, Jake Runestad.  Also included are “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson, Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo” and Bernstein’s “Almighty Father.”  We will explore the repertoire more fully in future posts.

Instead of a pre-concert lecture, we have arranged a community roundtable discussion.  We have invited representatives from many stakeholder groups around the area to discuss these issues, including LGBT, Developmentally Disabled, African American, Children, and more.  We will focus on how our diversity is expressed through music and how music leads to inclusion.

According to Dr. Bass, “When we come together to sing, it is almost exclusively in a peaceful manner.  There is no other place like the concert stage to cultivate human relationships:  Relationships with the past, with each other as performers and with the audience. We will ask our audience to  put the thoughts and concerns of the outside world away and join us in a musical celebration of human relationships and of peace.”

Prepare to be uplifted by this beautiful concert; prepare to be moved; prepare to think about important issues; prepare to count your blessings; prepare to appreciate the goodness that comes through human connection.

Please join us on October 8!  Here is the link for tickets:  http://longbeachcameratasingers.org/lbcs/camerata-peace-project/

All About Camerata’s New Artistic Director, James K. Bass

Artistic Director transitions are important moments in the culture of a chorus.  There is the sad good-bye to the departing individual, the wishing-well-but-holding-on phase.  There is the selection process, where hopes and dreams are lit aflame.  Finally, there is the Choice.

The Choice, in the case of Long Beach Camerata Singers, was Dr. James K. Bass, three-time GRAMMY®-nominated singer and conductor, and  Professor and Director of Choral Studies at the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA. He is the Associate Conductor and Director of Education for the Miami based ensemble Seraphic Fire and is the Artistic Director of the Long Beach Camerata Singers.

Bass is an active soloist and ensemble artist. In 2017 he made his Cleveland Orchestra solo debut singing with Franz Welser-Möst and the orchestra in Miami and in Severance Hall, Cleveland. He has appeared with numerous professional vocal ensembles including Seraphic Fire, Conspirare, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Trinity Wall Street, Apollo Master Chorale, Vox Humanae, True Concord and Spire. He was the featured baritone soloist on the GRAMMY nominated recording Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings with fellow singer Lauren Snouffer, conductor Craig Hella-Johnson and the GRAMMY winning ensemble Conspirare. Bass was selected by the master conductor of the Amsterdam Baroque Soloists, Ton Koopman, to be one of only 20 singers for a presentation of Cantatas by J. S. Bach in Carnegie Hall and was an auditioned member of Robert Shaw’s workshop choir at Carnegie.

During his tenure as Artistic Director for the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, the official chorus of the Florida Orchestra, he was responsible for five recordings and multiple world premieres. In 2012 he served as chorusmaster and co-editor for the Naxos recording entitled Delius: Sea Drift and Appalachia featuring the Florida Orchestra and conducted by Stefan Sanderling.

His professional career has coincided with the development of Seraphic Fire as one of the premier vocal ensembles in the United States. During the summer of 2011 he co-founded the Professional Choral Institute. In its inaugural year of recording, Seraphic Fire and PCI received the GRAMMY® nomination for Best Choral Performance for their recording of Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deuthches Requiem. As the Director of Education for the ensemble he has been involved with annual events that service more than 2000 students in the Miami-Dade county area each year. In 2017 Seraphic Fire and UCLA launched a new educational initiative entitled the Ensemble Artist Program that aims to identify and train the next generation of high-level ensemble singers.

Bass received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Miami, where he was a doctoral fellow, and is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Indications are that The Choice was a good one!  Welcome to Camerata, James!

Observations and anecdotes about classical music in Southern California