Handel Society to tour in Europe

by sydney ayers | 11/30/09 11:00pm

Commemorating the 250th anniversary of George Frideric Handel's death, the Handel Society of Dartmouth College will kick off its fourth international concert tour over the winter interim, performing a series of 10 concerts in prestigious venues throughout England, France and Germany.

Robert Duff, director and conductor of the Handel Society, said in an interview with The Dartmouth that he designed the European itinerary as an homage to the group's namesake.

"I created a tour that follows Handel's career path through Europe, following the venues where he would have worked," he said.

The composer, born in Halle, Germany in 1685, trained in Italy and traveled around Europe before spending most of his adult life in London. He died in 1759 at the age of 74.

On Dec. 7, 43 of the 100 members of the Handel Society will depart for England, performing in Cambridge before traveling to London, where highlights include a coveted lunchtime recital at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The group will then perform several concerts in Paris, including an evening mass at the famed Cathedral de Notre Dame.

The European tou r concludes in Germany on Dec. 18.

"[We finish] the tour in his hometown of Halle, Germany where [Handel] would have had his first position," Duff said.

The program will include works by the composers Maurice Durufle, Eric Whitacre, Randall Thompson, Alice Parker and Steven Sametz.

"Handel would have been familiar with the Renaissance and Baroque pieces," Duff said.

Additionally, the Handel Society, America's oldest town-gown choral society, is set to perform "Celebration for the Season" Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. The concert will preview the choral pieces for the upcoming tour, in addition to showcasing holiday music and a new commissioned work by Daniel Brewbaker, "Divine Cecilia."

Brewbaker was the first American composer to have works commissioned by the world-renowned Kirov Orchestra and Chorus in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"He was on my short list," Duff said. "I've wanted him for quite a while."

Brewbaker's "Divine Cecilia" turns the eight stanzas of Alexander Pope's poem "Ode to St. Cecilia" (1713) into an unaccompanied choral piece.

Saint Cecilia became the patron saint of musicians and church music by singing a song to God as she died.

Duff said that the Handel Society has been preparing for the holiday concert since the beginning of Fall term, adding that the members going on the European tour have had to attend additional Saturday morning practices.

Ping Khuan Sim '11, a new member of the society this year, cited his desire to sing and love of classical music as motivation to attend the additional practices.

"It's exciting because it will be my first performance outside of the United States, it's a great opportunity," Sim said. "All the extra work is definitely worth the effort."