Category Archives: GF Handel

“Word-Painting” and Handel’s Messiah

One of the most extraordinary aspects of Handel’s music is the use of “word-painting,”  the musical technique of composing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song’s lyrics. For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death.

This technique is employed throughout Handel’s most famous work, “Messiah.”  Today we will examine the use of word painting in two  arias, “Ev’ry Valley,” for Tenor and “But Who May Abide” for Bass.

In the very first aria, or air, of the composition — “Every valley shall be exalted,”  Handel literally begins the work with powerful word painting.  Many a composer would be content with just composing a melody with half the beauty of Handel’s, but he went much further.  The text is: “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.”  When the tenor sings the word, “crooked,” Handel toggles between two notes; and with “straight,” he writes one long note. The effect wonderfully contrasts uneven with straight.

“But who may abide the day of his coming?” contains one of the most dramatic moments in the entire oratorio. The text from Malachi prophesizes about Judgment Day, asking “who may abide the day of his coming?” This Handel crafts into a mysterious, slow air. But at the text, “for he is like a refiner’s fire,” the music explodes into … well … a fiery exclamation. The acceleration and ferociousness captures perfectly the threat of hell and damnation.   The word “shake” uses a melisma that actually sounds like the singer is shaking.  And, if you listen really closely you can hear the violins play a run that is reminiscent of  the “flames” of the “refiner’s fire” licking at the singer’s feet!

These are just two examples of many in Handel’s Messiah that make it interesting, exciting and accessible.  This is why the work has endured since its first performance in 1742.  We hope you will join the Long Beach Camerata Singers in their performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach on November 30 and December 1, 2018.  Click HERE to purchase tickets.



Homer (Simpson) Loves Handel

We all know that GF Handel is famous for his iconic chorus from the oratorio, Messish, the Hallelujah Chorus.  He’s so famous, it turns out, that even Homer Simpson likes his music.  This is evidenced by the fact that the Hallelujah Chorus has appeared in the soundtrack of The Simpsons not once, not twice, but FIVE times!

  1.  “Bart Gets An F” (1990) —   Bart is about to flunk out of 4th grade.  A snowstorm saves him, to the accompaniment of the Hallelujah Chorus.  Other music in this episode:  Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
  2. “There’s Something About Marrying” (2005) —  Bart becomes a minister to capitalize on the rash of weddings about to take place due to the legalization of gay marriage.  Other music in this episode:  Let’s Twist Again.
  3. “Thank God It’s Doomsday” (2005) — Homer hears about the Rapture, and by using numerology to calculate when the Rapture is coming he learns that it is only one week away.  Other music in this episode:  The Flower Duet from Lakme.
  4. “The Treehouse of Horror” (2017 — Maggie gets possessed by a demon; Lisa discovers a creepy/perfect version of her family in an alternative universe; Homer cannibalizes himself.  Other music in this episode:  On the Road Again.
  5. “Singin’ in the Lane” (2017) — Homer gets his old bowling team back together and they wind up competing with arrogant millionaires.  Other music in this episode:  The Boys Are Back in Town.

Long Beach Camerata Singers will be performing Handel’s Messiah, including The Hallelujah Chorus, on November 30/Dec 1.  We hope you will join us.  Click HERE to buy tickets.

How GF Handel Made History Reusing Music

GF Handel, like most composers of his era, borrowed and recycled musical themes on a routine basis.  Today, we would consider the practice at best, distasteful, and at worst, plagiarism.  But in Handel’s time it was a sign of respect.

As we know, “Messiah” was composed in just 24 days.  Part of the reason Handel was able to accomplish this remarkable feat is that four of the major choruses in the oratorio were “repurposed” from earlier work that the composer had done.

In the beloved Chorus, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” Handel not only borrowed music from one of his earlier compositions, he pretty much lifted in intact and just set it right down in the middle of the Messiah score.  The original composition was a duet for 2 Sopranos, an allegro movement from HWV 189, a short cantata called “No, di voi non vo’ fidarmi” or “No, I do not want to trust you.”  This piece was composed in 1741, shortly before Handel began work on Messiah, but it harkens back to his Italian sojourn in the early eighteenth century, when these vocal miniatures established his reputation as an up-and-coming composer.  Click Here to listen to a performance of the duet, beautiful and a bit bizarre in its original incarnation.

Stranger still, Handel was not done borrowing from this particular cantata.  The final movement of the cantata is another allegro section and yes, you guessed it, was also reincarnated into the “Messiah” oratorio, this time morphing into “All We Like Sheep.”  Use the same link as above to listen, but advance to 3:35 seconds to hear the second allegro.

If borrowing twice is successful, why not do it again?  And again still? Source material for “His Yoke Is Easy” and “He Shall Purify” was supplied by Duetto XV, HWV 192, “Quel fior che all’alba ride” or “That flower that laughs at daybreak.”  Again, the borrowing is deep and extensive.    Listen Here to this beautiful music.

Regardless of how he got there, we can only be grateful that GF Handel composed this great, enduring piece of music.

Long Beach Camerata Singers will perform Handel’s Messiah with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra on Friday, November 30 at 7:30pm, and again, on Saturday December 1, at 3:30pm.  Both performances will feature a pre-concert lecture one hour before the concert.  The Beverly O’Neill Theater is the venue for these events.  On Saturday, a holiday sing-a-long will kick off the afternoon.  Tickets are $30 and $45.  Click HERE to visit our website to learn more and purchase tickets.

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. or call 562-373-5654.  Sunday December 3, 4:30pm Beverly O’Neill  Theater

“The Music of Downton Abbey” — Handel’s Coronation Anthem

83e55955-dc96-4394-b949-b2e275f4ddcdLong Beach Camerata Singers will open their “Music of Downton Abbey” concert with GF Handel’s iconic “Coronation Anthem” from Zadok the Priest.   Today’s post is excerpted from the concert’s program notes, prepared by Matthew Netto.

Beethoven once said of George Frideric Handel that he was “the master of us all… the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.” Beethoven praised Handel’s ability to achieve stunning dramatic effects with the simplest of techniques. Though Händel was born in Halle, Germany, he spent the majority of his career providing opera and oratorio to the elite of London. Handel permanently settled there in 1712 (at age 27).

In 1727, the about-to-be-crowned George II  commissioned Handel to compose music for his coronation. Relying on his knowledge of the drama present in the Old Testament, and referencing the coronation of King James II in 1685, Handel selected four texts on which to compose choral anthems for the George II’s coronation. The most famous of these,150412_LBCS-016 Zadok the Priest, references the anointing of King Solomon. This anthem is well known to the British people as a patriotic anthem. Zadok the Priest has been performed at the coronation of every single British monarch since George II on October 11, 1727. Though Handel originally composed this work with standard, festive, instrumentation of the Baroque orchestra, the Camerata Singers present the work this evening with a reduction of the orchestral parts for organ.

Considering the gravity of a coronation, Handel provides a highly dramatic flourish worthy of the installation of royalty. The work starts with a soft layering of static chords to prepare a grand forte entrance of the full orchestra and chorus. In the central section of the anthem, Handel shifts into a joyful triple-meter dance as the chorus sings the words “Rejoice!” Handel then returns to common (4) time for the exultant Hallelujahs and Amens. Listen carefully for the musical ideas which harken to the famous Hallelujah chorus from Messiah, as Handel was fond of borrowing from his compositions.

Please join the Long Beach Camerata Singers for their upcoming concert, “The Music of Downton Abbey,” on October 2 at 4:30pm.  Performed at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach, California.  Your ticket price includes “Cream Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room in Bixby Knolls to enhance your concert experience!  Click Here to purchase tickets.DA Card

If you purchase a season subscription (3 concerts or more) you will be treated to the “Lady Violet Tea” at Elise’s Tea Room.  Click Here to purchase subscriptions.

For more information about “The Music of Downton Abbey” please visit our Website.

Peanut Says Check Out Camerata’s Upcoming Season!

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.32.11 PMThe Long Beach Camerata Singers has announced its 2016-2017 Season, its best ever as it spends the year celebrating the accomplishments of Artistic Director, Rob Istad.  Here are the highlights:

THE MUSIC OF DOWNTON ABBEY:  IMG_3403If you loved the PBS series and crave English Choral Music, this is the show for you!  You will hear the series theme plus many other familiar and important pieces.  Chuckle as our own “Lady Violet” trades barbs with Rob Istad!  Sunday, October 2, 4:30pm, Beverly O’Neill Theater

HANDEL’S MESSIAH:  A Holiday tradition for Long Beach.  One of the most important and enduring pieces in the choral repertoire is performed with an orchestra and top soloists.  Sunday, December 4, 4:30pm, Beverly O’Neill Theater

A CAMERATA CHRISTMAS:  Our Christmas gift to you!  This family-friendly concert will feature your favorite holiday songs and sing-a-longs, Santa Claus and a big cookie reception after.  Saturday, December 17, 3:00pm, Los Altos United Methodist Church

MONTEVERDI’S VESPERS OF 1610:  IMG_3409Rarely performed, this piece shattered the traditions of the past and propelled western music into the future.  Accompanied by Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra.  Sunday, April 2, 4:30pm, Beverly O’Neill Theater

BACH AND JAZZ AT THE SKY ROOM:  Hear local favorite Anne Walsh perform variations on Bach pieces plus Jazz Standards at the Iconic Sky Room.  Ticket includes wine and hors d’oeuvres.  Sunday, April 9, 5:30pm

CAMERATA GOES BROADWAY:  Rob Istad is sure to have a few surprises at this, his last concert with Camerata.  Wine, buffet, silent auction included.  Saturday, June 3, 6:30pm

Use this link to purchase subscriptions or single tickets:

Use this link to sign up for auditions:

Five Big Reasons to Audition for Long Beach Camerata Singers

661c657b084aa35269aad4102a4bba73There have been hundreds of articles written about the benefits of singing, but today I want to give you 5 reasons why you should be singing with the Long Beach Camerata Singers.  We are the professional-quality choral ensemble serving Long Beach and its surrounding communities.

  1.  Sing with Artistic Director Rob Istad — IMG_1442Rob’s reputation as a fantastic choral conductor is well established.  He is also an all-around nice guy, respectful of talent and hard working.
  2. Be Part of Rob’s Last Season with Camerata — We have planned a fantastic season to celebrate Rob’s final year with us.  Our repertoire includes English choral music, Handel’s Messiah, a fun-filled Christmas concert, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and a toe-tapping Broadway extravaganza.
  3. Perform in the Beverly O’Neill Theater — We are moving to the Beverly O’Neill Theater (formerly the Center Theater) in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center this year.  Improved acoustics and a professionally managed theater will make your performance experience very enjoyable.
  4. Collaborate with Top Quality Musicians and Soloists —
    Sarah Goodwin channels Monica in "The Medium"
    Sarah Goodwin channels Monica in “The Medium”

    Rob very carefully selects our soloists and accompanists.  For example, organist Christoph Bull will be part of our Downton Abbey concert.  Musica Angelica will provide our orchestra for the Monteverdi program.

  5. Collaborate with other Arts Organizations — This year we will be singing with both the Long Beach Opera (The Perfect American, March 2017) and the Long Beach Symphony (Mozart’s Requiem, April, 2017).  This is your opportunity to be part of these fantastic performances.

In summary, we provide an excellent creative environment with unique performance opportunities.  Our professionally managed organization will make your singing experience worry free!

Auditions will be held Tuesday, August 9 and Wednesday August 10.

Use this link to sign up for auditions: