This holiday season, experience "Messiah," George Frederick Handel's beloved oratorio -- like you've never heard it! On Dec. 16, the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra presents what could be the first performance of Messiah played entirely on plucked strings. Joining the orchestra will be four top-flight vocalists from Seattle's choral and operatic community.
"Messiah is one of the most popular and well-known pieces of music in the world," said Joseph Pollard White, SMO Artistic Advisor and conductor for the evening's performance. "Changing the instrumentation can help us hear it with fresh ears, as if for the first time. The transparent quality of the mandolin sound supports the voices beautifully, revealing aspects of Handel's music that one might not notice in a conventional setting." The orchestra will present an abbreviated version of the oratorio, featuring Part I, or the "Christmas section," plus the famous "Hallelujah" Chorus.
Soloists Julie Finch, soprano; Elizabeth Giesbers, mezzo-soprano; Derek Sellers, tenor; and Gustave Blazek, bass, will sing with the orchestra. In another unconventional move, the soloists will also constitute the entire chorus. "Obviously the chorus can't get any smaller," said White. "Our intention is to create a sense of intimacy, rather than overwhelm the audience." The pristine acoustics of Seattle's Green Lake United Methodist Church, located at 6415 First Ave. NE, provide an ideal setting for this unique performance.
First presented in 1742, Messiah has been played by groups large and small, with a variety of orchestrations and arrangements, although recent trends have favored smaller ensembles. "We know that Handel was familiar with the mandolin, because he wrote a small part for it in one of his later oratorios," said White. "But mandolin orchestras didn't come on the scene until the late 19th century. While we're taking liberties with the instruments, we haven't changed a note and are using the same string parts as a conventional orchestra."
Since taking the podium for the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra in 2010, Joseph Pollard White has worked with the group to reinterpret the music of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Haydn, Brahms and other composers, exploring the mandolin as a legitimate voice in classical music as well as other styles. A native of New York, completed the Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Washington, where he was a student of Robert Feist. He also holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Indiana University School of Music. Dr. White has taught at Northern Kentucky University, Christopher Newport University and Pacific Lutheran University. He has worked with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, Seattle Chamber Players and Northwest Mahler Festival and served as Music Director of the Rainier Symphony and Seattle Civic Light Opera.
Founded in 1968, the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra is dedicated to revitalizing America's mandolin ensemble tradition. Featuring the entire mandolin family of instruments, including mandolin, mandola, mandocello and mandobass, as well as guitar, the group performs throughout the Seattle area. The Orchestra's CD, Coloratura, will be for sale at the concert. It includes classical selections, Italian favorites and Renaissance art songs, featuring the captivating vocals of soprano soloist Julie Finch. For more information, visit www.seattlemandolin.org.
Green Lake United Methodist Church (View)
6415 1st Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115
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