Tag Archives: classical music

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.


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


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

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/

Looking Forward — Looking Back — With Gratitude to Rob!

As we begin a new chapter at Long Beach Camerata Singers with Artistic Director Dr. James K. Bass, we would like to take a moment to look back at the journey that has delivered us to this place.  It is not an easy task to transition a community chorus into a symphony chorus and many were part of that effort.  The main architect of Camerata’s transformation, however, was our beloved and recently-departed Artistic Director, Dr. Robert Istad.

Rob became Camerata’s Artistic Director in the summer of 2009, taking over from Jonathan Talberg. The season had already been planned and the choir stood at about 45 people. We had 2 part time employees and our revenue for that season came in at a little under $75,000. Rob was teaching at Cal State Fullerton at that point, and had a freshly minted DMA certificate on his wall.

It was pretty clear to the board that Rob had a vision of how Camerata could progress artistically and as a force in the community. But more importantly, Rob turned out to possess a great organizational and business sense, along with his artistic abilities. This confluence of skills on the artistic side, plus a board that was motivated to see the organization grow, provided just the right environment to move Long Beach Camerata Singers forward.

So, what was Rob’s vision and how did he take Camerata from there – a small community choir – to here – Long Beach’s professional-quality choral organization?

First, Rob focused on artistic quality. He recruited great singers, both for our paid ranks and within our volunteer ranks. His reputation allowed him to attract great talent for us.

Second, he programmed some fantastic concerts – The great classics, such as Carmina Burana, Mozart Requiem, St. John Passion, Bach’s Magnificat, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and of course, Messiah. He hired talented, top-level soloists and made sure that we worked with reputable orchestra contractors to provide quality musicians to accompany the choir.

Next, he made sure that we had well-trained staff to run the day-to-day operations, freeing the board to do fundraising and the singers to polish their skills.

Another great visionary change that Rob urged us to make was to move our concerts from churches to a formal performing arts facility. We made that move in 2013, to the Long Beach City College Auditorium and, last season, to the Beverly O’Neill Theater.

All of these changes created synergy in the community and in the organization. The size and quality of the choir increased; we added new, talented board members; we attracted more donations from individuals, foundations and corporate sponsors. And, finally, Rob helped negotiate an artistic partnership between the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and Long Beach Camerata Singers.

So, there are the accomplishments, but what of the man?  Everyone loves Rob, and there’s a reason for it – he is a genuinely nice person, enormously talented, but still focused on the needs of others.   He has taught us volumes about how to treat people with respect, about how powerful it can be to recognize the worth of others.   He speaks frankly about problems and concerns, but he is not sarcastic or unkind in his conduct.

Rob is smart, funny, silly, talented, thorough and detail oriented, but it is this quality of treating everyone he encounters with respect that stands out as a great, shining reflection of his inner character.

So as we stand on the brink of new adventures and achievements, everyone at Long Beach Camerata Singers would like to acknowledge Rob’s contributions to bringing us to this point.  Thanks to your tireless efforts, we are well prepared for this new journey!

Eight Surprising Reasons Why We Need Choral Music in Our Lives And Community

Many of the articles we read on the importance of choral music focus on the singer and his/her experience.  We have heard plenty about the health benefits of singing in a choir, and how people build friendships.

But what about our audience?  Why should they bother to attend our concerts?  How does choral music impact our community as a whole and our patrons as individuals?  Peanut has a few thoughts on this important topic that he would like to share with you:

  • Classical music repertoire is full of important choral/orchestral masterworks that the community wants to hear.  The Long Beach Camerata Singers is dedicated to singing at the artistic level necessary to partner with the Long Beach Symphony to perform these works. Your financial support and your attendance at our concerts allows us to continue this important mission.
  • The presence of a strong and accomplished chorus in the City of Long Beach is a matter of civic pride.  We are the second largest city in Southern California and the quality of our arts organizations is a reflection of our commitment to our community.
  • Choral singing is a communal activity and is especially important today when we increasingly rely on Internet-based communications, rather than face-to-face interaction.  We bring people together for a moment in time when they can shed their differences and focus their attention on the music.
  • Choral groups and choral singers are diverse.  The criteria for admission to a group like Long Beach Camerata Singers is based solely on ability and is blind to age, ethnicity or income.
  • Choral singing provides “social capital” to animate and address issues of justice, social awareness, health and wellness.  A chorus is more than the sum of the parts.  We promote cultural excellence and community pride.
  • Choral music is important in building connections in community. A choir of human voices singing in harmony is a compelling metaphor  for a community that works.  Every member contributes something unique—a high voice, a low voice, a voice somewhere in the middle.  The choir is a wonderful example of teamwork and a great example to community members of how people can work together
  • Choral music moves people’s minds, spirits and emotions.  The combination of voice, harmony, and text affects  audiences are deeply.
  • Choral music is one art form that people can directly participate in throughout their lives; going to concerts opens up that possibility and inspires people to express themselves through music.

For more information about the Long Beach Camerata Singers, please visit our Website.

Breakfast at Downton Abbey, Part I

There have been many scenes at the breakfast table in Downton Abbey.  lord-robert-reading-letterIn fact, the show kicks off in that very place, when Lord Grantham receives the letter informing him of the sinking of the Titanic. You will  recall that this is the event that the family’s fortunes turned on, setting the stage for Mary and Matthew’s romance.  Like most aspects of the life of an English gentleman and his family, the mores of the petit dejuner were carefully scripted and rigorously followed.

Breakfast was not consumed immediately upon rising by the upper classes.  Adapting a custom from agrarian communities, most people took tea and then fasted for the next two or three hours.   We know that the Duke of Wellington, for most of his life, rose at approximately 7:00am and spent at least three hours working on his correspondence and military dispatches before he sat down to breakfast.  In a letter to her sister, a639833d-4499-43cb-8566-07fd24a7514a_dCassandra, Jane Austen, while visiting London, wrote of rising near 8:00am, dressing and going out to the draper’s to do some shopping, before returning home at about 9:30am to have breakfast with her brother.  Hence the saying,

“Rise at five, dine at nine, Sup at five, to bed at nine, Makes man live ten times nine.”

Also, breakfast was the only meal that was self service.  char_lg_edithThe food — often an enormous array — was laid out on the sideboard.  It was customary for the diners — primarily gentlemen — to help themselves.  Married ladies would take their meal in bed perhaps due to the fashions and hair styles that required lengthy preparation, including assistance from their lady’s maid.   Edith in Downton Abbey caused some consternation by joining the men at Breakfast.  Her father asks,  “Why don’t you have breakfast in bed?” “Because I’m not married,” she answers.

Tomorrow we will examine the breakfast menu.

Please join the Long Beach Camerata Singers for our 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.

Take a cooking class and learn how to make your own Afternoon Tea with ChefTech Cooking School!  Click Here for more information and to register for the class on Saturday, October 1.

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