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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Handel Society performs “Messiah”

This term’s Handel Society show in the Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center will showcase one of George Frideric Handel’s more famous works, “Messiah” (1742).

“Aided by top-flight soloists and a full orchestra, the Handel Society of Dartmouth College will perform Handel’s beloved ‘Messiah,” the Hop’s publicity coordinator Rebecca Bailey said.

The Handel Society is the oldest American organization focused on the performance of choral-orchestral pieces. It was originally led by mathematics and philosophy professor John Hubbard. They were founded in 1807 and currently number around 100 members drawn from the student body, faculty and local community. They focus on pieces by Baroque artist. The society is named after Handel because of his use of grand choruses. In addition to the chorus, the show will feature four special guests and soloists — Margot Rood, Ryland Angel, Gene Stenger and Paul Max Tipton.

Rood is a soprano who had her solo debut in Boston in 2011. She has performed “Messiah” with various other groups including the Rhode Island Philharmonic. Angel is a countertenor who has performed on more than 50 recordings. He has recently been involved with the Opera National de Paris. Stenger is a tenor with two masters in music degrees, from Colorado State University and Yale University. Tipton is a baritone and trained at the University Michigan School of Music. He performed with the New York Philharmonic for their first Bach Festival.

“Working with them is pretty cool. They sound incredible. It’s a whole other side to the oratorio. It adds a whole other dimension,” bass Adam Rinehouse ‘19 said.

“Messiah” is one of Handel’s better-known works. The piece is traditionally associated with ecclesiastical holiday music but was not intended to be church music. It was first performed in Dublin in 1742 for a crowd of approximately 700 people.

“Messiah” is an oratorio divided into three parts. An oratorio is a musical composition about a sacred or semi-sacred object. There is minimal use of quoted speech in the work. Part one concerns the Messiah’s coming and the virgin birth. Part two encompasses the passion of Christ and his resurrection. The third and final part includes predictions of judgment day.

The Handel Society’s performance of “Messiah” will have one intermission after part one.

Handel Society member and soprano Tara Gallagher ’19 has previously performed “Messiah” and appreciated performing a piece with which she was already comfortable.

“I’ve actually sung it before. As a freshman, it’s nice to have something familiar that I know,” she said. “I’m really excited about that.”

“Messiah” is often associated with Christmas music, Gallagher said.

“My favorite parts are the more traditional Christmas sections. Even though people know them, each time, we are able to bring something new to them, which is really nice,” she said.

Rinehouse particularly enjoyed performing one of the choruses.

“My favorite part is this one chorus, ‘He trusted in God.’ It has this sort of mocking tone, we take on almost a mob mentality. It’s really interesting. It’s both pretty and dark at the same time. It’s really cool,” he said.

The show is currently sold out, which is normal for the Handel Society’s performances, but more tickets might become available closer to the show, Bailey said.

Rinehouse is looking forward to putting all the groups together for the performance.

“It’s really nice to be finally performing with the soloists and being able to put it all together,” he said.

In addition to termly concerts, the Handel Society performs community outreach and tours throughout Europe. Robert Duff is the artistic director and conductor of the Handel Society. He received his doctorate from the University of Southern California and has taught at Pomona College and Mount St. Mary’s College.

The Handel Society’s fall show will be Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.