CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
UI Symphony and Choruses will perform Handel's 'Messiah' Dec. 3
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Handel's "Messiah" -- one of the most popular
pieces of classical music ever composed and widely considered one of the
greatest works of the European musical tradition -- will be presented by
the University of Iowa Symphony, choruses and soloists in a free performance
at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.
The performance will be conducted by William Hatcher, the director of
choral activities at the UI School of Music. The chorus will be comprised
of members of four choral ensembles from the School of Music: Kantorei,
which Hatcher directs; the University Choir, directed by graduate assistant
Melanie Jacobson; Camerata Singers, directed by faculty member Richard
Bloesch; and the University Women's Chorale, directed by graduate assistant
The arias will be sung by a number of student soloists: sopranos Thea
Engelson, Danielle Hurt, and LeAnne Foust; altos David Shaler and Rachel
Andrews; tenors Dirk Garner, Jared Parker and Jeff Krueger; and basses
Daniel Afonso, Gary Haase and Matthew Faerber.
The performance will be preceded by a free discussion of "Messiah"
and its text presented by George Nickelsburg, professor in the UI School
of Religion, at 7 p.m. in the Hancher Auditorium Greenroom.
"Messiah" is today the most popular of the many oratorios
on Biblical subjects that Handel wrote during his years in England. Most
of the oratorios are dramatic settings of stories from the Old Testament,
written in operatic style and considered appropriate as entertainment during
the Lenten season, when operas were not permitted.
"Messiah" differs from those works in several ways. For one,
its subject -- Christian salvation as revealed through the life of Jesus
-- is taken from the New Testament. For another, it is not dramatic in
the conventional sense of using dialog or portraying characters and their
conflicts through music. Instead, Jesus' life is told through narration
derived from Biblical passages.
Finally, a great deal of the narration is sung by the chorus, giving
"Messiah" far more choral music than most of Handel's oratorios
-- a fact that has contributed significantly to the continuing popularity
of the work. To an extent unparalleled for a classical work, amateur choruses
and choral singers consider performances of "Messiah" the ultimate
musical experience, and sing-along performances have become staples of
musical life in many communities.
The vast majority of these performances take place each year during
the Christmas season, although it should be noted that "Messiah"
tells the entire story of Jesus' life, paralleling the Christian liturgical
calendar from Advent and Christmas through Lent, Easter, the Ascension
Handel wrote "Messiah" in 1741. The score was composed for
a performance benefiting charities in Dublin, where it was first performed
April 13, 1742. That performance, using local singers and choruses from
the Dublin cathedrals, was very successful, earning about 400 English pounds
for the charities.
In contrast, the first London performance of "Messiah" in
1743 was not a great success -- partly because its performance in a theater
was considered inappropriate for a sacred work. Nevertheless, when Handel
began performing "Messiah" in 1750 in benefit concerts for the
London Foundling Hospital Chapel, it was quickly established as the composer's
most popular work, a position it has held to the present day.
Hatcher has served as director of choral activities at the UI School
of Music since 1988. He directs the graduate choral conducting program,
conducts choral ensembles in the School of Music and frequently appears
as music director of productions by the UI Opera Theater.
He was national president of the American Choral Directors Association
(ACDA) 1991-93 and currently is chair of the ACDA Endowment Trust. Prior
to coming to Iowa he taught at UCLA, the University of Washington and Pasadena
In the fall of 1996, his UI Kantorei participated in an International
Choral Competition in Tolosa, Spain. Prior to that honor, Kantorei was
one of only five choirs chosen to participate in the 1994 World Choral
Festival in Seoul, South Korea, where they presented concerts over an eight-day
Hatcher's concert tours with other collegiate ensembles have included
Europe, Greece, the British Isles, Canada, Hawaii and the western United
States. Hatcher was also coordinator and assistant director of the 1,000-voice
Olympic Honor Chorus, which sang for the opening and closing ceremonies
of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, an event telecast to more than
two billion people worldwide.
Hatcher has published materials on choral skills and choral arrangements,
and he appears frequently as a choral clinician and festival choir director.