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Pacific Symphony Performs Handel's MESSIAH Today


Timeless melodies paired with a choir of heavenly voices celebrate the beauty and revelation of the season during Pacific Symphony's performance of Handel's "Messiah," now a cherished Orange County tradition. Rejoice to thundering trumpets, triumphant timpani and the spine-tingling "Hallelujah" chorus as Pacific Chorale's Artistic Director John Alexander leads the orchestra, Pacific Chorale and esteemed vocal soloists Kiera Duffy, soprano; Jane Shim, mezzo-soprano; Norman Shankle, tenor; and Stephen Morscheck, bass. Handel's radiant masterpiece conjures a feeling of joy that reminds audiences of the peace in humanity-a message of inspiration to all. One of several holiday concerts offered by the Symphony, "Messiah" takes place today, Dec. 9, at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Tickets are $25-$102; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

"'Messiah' is simply pure genius: one of the greatest stories of all times, created by one of the greatest musical geniuses of all times," says Maestro Alexander.

Handel's "Messiah" is highly visual. Each word the chorus sings is painted in the music, as the composer tells the epic story through his grand musical composition; words like "mountain" and "exalted" are replicated with high notes played by the orchestra. The fluttering of wings as the angels appear to the shepherds is conveyed by arpeggios in the strings. This popular holiday performance is both a musical spectacle and an emotional ride for those who share the experience.

"Many regard 'Messiah' as one of the greatest compositions ever written," says Alexander. "In the realm of choral orchestral music, 'Messiah' has probably received more performances than any other composition ever written. I have conducted some 30 performances of 'Messiah' during my career, yet I have never grown tired of performing this great masterwork. Each time that I approach it as a conductor, I marvel at its beauty, structure and originality."

Born in Germany in 1685 during the Baroque period, Handel began his practice in music as a violinist with an opera orchestra in Hamburg. Then, at the age of 9, he began making his mark as a classical musician. The Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels heard young Handel play the organ, which led to the Duke's persistent urging to his father that the boy continue his studies in music. Following his father's approval, Handel moved to Italy, where he began to develop into a master of music. His travels served as his inspiration in composing oratorios and operas. "Messiah" remains his most famous composition. Known today as a Christmas classic, it was originally intended to plant the seed of Christian thought and faith centered on the Lent and Easter season.

"As with most music of the Baroque era, Handel leaves many more decisions to be made by the performers than we find with composers of later times," continues Alexander. With this type of freedom being granted to the conductor and performers, each rendition of 'Messiah' can be a new and refreshing experience. When dealing with a work like 'Messiah,' every performance has the freedom to be a new creative experience, with new decisions being made to create new musical results."

Alexander is praised for his four decades of work in Southern California as the artistic director of Pacific Chorale (since 1972). He is one of America's most respected choral conductors-for his inspired leadership on the podium and as an advocate for the advancement of the choral art, which has garnered national and international admiration and acclaim.

Alexander's long and distinguished career has encompassed conducting hundreds of choral and orchestral performances nationally and in 27 countries around the globe. Most recently, in June 2008, Alexander received the "Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art" from Chorus America, and celebrated his 40th season with Pacific Chorale in the 2011-12 season.

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