The American Handel Society is gathering in Seattle for its biennial conference, and even if you’re not a Handel scholar (look, no one’s saying you’re not), there are plenty of performances to take in at the American Handel Festival, or “Handel in Seattle.” More than two dozen performances are scheduled between now and March 27, with many taking place on Capitol and First Hill.
The Seattle Symphony kicked off the festival downtown this weekend, with conductor Nicholas McGegan and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in Songs of Cleopatra. Your typical G. F. Handel work will feature an antique god or goddess, or at least a king and queen or mythical figure, and often some fireworks on the harpsichord. Handel shredded, harpsichord-wise. I’m told it’s no longer de rigueur to wear the buckled, platform shoes and silk hose to a Handel concert, but suit yourself.
It’s not all Handel all the time though–March 17, the Frye Art Museum hosts the world premiere of the one-act stage-fright opera, The Man in the Mirror, by Ben Bernstein, master teacher at the San Francisco Opera and director of the Singer’s Gym. A tenor, warming up in front of a mirror, begins to hear voices in his head. At first, they’re congratulatory, but then they turn on him and his self-esteem. The tenor in this case is Ross Hauck, a popular Seattle singer and voice professor at Seattle University. (You may know him from such early music hits as Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea.)
You can also catch the opera on the 19th, at the Sorrento, at a $50/person fundraiser, where the opera comes with wine and dessert. That’s probably the best opportunity to break out the silk hose.
But back to the Handel. Also on March 19, at St. James Cathedral at 2 p.m., the Seattle Recorder Society and Moss Bay Recorder Society, conducted by Peter Seibert, host a Handel “play-in” of Water Music and Music for Royal Fireworks. “Come prepared to enjoy playing through these marvelous works. Players of recorders, viols, baroque flutes and related instruments should bring an instrument (pitch A=440) and a music stand. Parts will be provided.” You may not believe it, but it’s free.
Stick around St. James, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m., for Seattle Pro Musica performing Dixit Dominus and the Coronation Anthems, conducted by Karen P. Thomas.
Or, if your tastes incline to the episcopal setting, stop by St. Mark’s Cathedral on Sunday at 2 p.m. for sopranos Gakyung Chung and Heidi Kim performing Two Italian Duets and organists J. Melvin Butler and Alan DePuy throwing down Organ Concerti, Op. 4, Nos. 5 and 6.
At 3 p.m., over at Town Hall, the Early Music Guild and Portland Baroque Orchestra hit you with Bach’s St. John Passion, with choral support from Cappella Romana and vocal soloists from Montreal’s Les Voix Baroques. Also at Town Hall, March 22 from noon to 1:30, landscape architect Paul Willen presents a slide show with music that sets up the synergy between Handel’s pastoral music and pastoral English gardens of the early 18th century.
The final weekend, March 24 to 27, is when the Handel scholars really kick out the jams. “Leave it all in the cathedral,” they like to say. See the schedule for full details, but you’ve got baroque harpists at Town Hall; the actual American Handel Society Conference: “three days of papers, lectures, research, lively discussions, and great food with leading international Handel scholars”; and a a harpsichord master class with Byron Schenkman as part of the Western Early Keyboard Association Conference.
On Friday, March 25, at 8 p.m. at Town Hall, Pacific MusicWorks presents Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the 1718 chamber version of Handel’s beloved pastoral opera by the Boston Early Music Festival, with stage direction by Gilbert Blin, and musical direction by Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs. If you see one nymph-and-shepherd early music extravaganza this year…!
Saturday, St. James Cathedral hosts “Handel: the Oratorio Esther from 1720″ by Pacific MusicWorks and the Tudor Choir (Doug Fullington, director), conducted by Stephen Stubbs. Sunday, Town Hall rings down the curtain with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, led by Ingrid Matthews, performing Handel’s Grand Concertos.