January Newsletter

The new term has begun and we have embarked on the rehearsals for our next concert which will be on Saturday 21st March, 7.30pm at our usual venue, St Luke’s Church, Ramsden Road. We are singing Israel in Egypt by Handel.
Like the Messiah, this is an oratorio that links passages from the Bible through soloists and chorus. It is not a dramatised representation of the action; there are no characters rather the music conveys the drama and tension of the situation while the chorus sets the scene.

The Israelites have been living in Egypt, led there by Joseph who had become the favourite advisor of the Pharaoh. Joseph has died; a new Pharaoh has come to the throne. The Israelites find themselves no longer in favour; indeed they are treated like slaves. The young Moses, brought up in the Egyptian court, flees after striking (and killing) an Egyptian official mistreating an Israelite. During his exile in the desert of Midian (across the Red Sea). There a vision orders him to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites to find their Promised Land. With his brother, Aaron, Moses returns to Egypt to confront the Pharaoh. His demands are refused – and an escalating series of “plagues” follows, including the death of all the firstborn Egyptians. At last, the Israelites are allowed to leave and they journey to the Red Sea. However, the Egyptian army pursues them. The waters of the Red Sea part at the behest of Moses who calls to God. The Israelites pass over safely, but the Egyptian army is destroyed.

Though when first performed the Oratorio was in three parts, the first an extended lamentation for the death of Joseph, Handel quickly shortened his composition in an effort to make it more attractive. We will perform this version which describes the plagues inflicted on Egypt, the escape to the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army. Handel does this by setting verses from the Book of Exodus (the Old Testament account of the Moses story) and from the Psalms. It is the music that creates the atmosphere and drives the narrative rather than dramatic representation and is almost all sung by the chorus. The second part of the Oratorio is a paean of praise and thanksgiving by the Israelites for their escape.

This is a story that has always inspired others, whether on the sugar and cotton plantations or in Hollywood. Film versions make the most of every trick technology can provide. Here, Handel creates drama with no billowing thunderstorms or rivers of blood; he does it through brilliant orchestration and the power of the voice.

There will be a Bass Part Rehearsal on February 19th, at 8pm, 56 Roseneath Road, SW11

This term:
Rehearsals start Monday 5th January
Concert Saturday 21st March
Saturday Rehearsals 7th February and 7th March
Handel: Israel in Egypt

Sunday 11th January, 6.30pm St Michael’s Church, Cobham Close, SW11 – Richard Boothby (viol) in a concert of early music featuring William Lawes, Tobias Hume and Charles Frederick Abel. Tickets on the door.


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