Robert L. Edwards, Conductor, Consultant, Photographer

Georg Friderich Händel  “Messiah”

Handel Messiah CD cover 

Händel was a German composer, living in England, writing Italian music. (Pause for chuckle.) Händel stole music from everyone, including himself e.g. many people are surprised the first time they hear his “Concerto a due cori in B-flat Major” because it is identical to the opening chorus from Messiah “And the Glory of the Lord” - without the words of course. Yes, Händel took a concerto he wrote earlier and added words to it. And he was neither the first nor last composer to do so. (It was quite common during the Renaissance.) 


George Friderich Händel - excerpts “Messiah”
 - Live Performance
Scranton Singers Guild, Greater Hazleton Oratorio Society
Robert L. Edwards
- 1984

During the last thirty years of the 20th century, rediscovery of the performance practices of the Baroque Era brought about a broad revival. During the 19th century, performances of Baroque music had become so corrupted that they often bore no resemblance to the composer's intentions. The imposition of sluggish tempos, long unbroken lines and a complete absence of ornamentation beyond the printed notes had become typical. With the revival, tempos, and more importantly tempo relationships among movements - 2 alternating with 3, were restored to their often dance music origins and the composer's expectations of ornamentation once again became common. (Example: “O Thou that tellest...” is set to the form of an elegant dance in 6/8 time and should be performed that way. Its not a race.) Terraced dynamics (loud alternating with soft) were restored.

It is easy to apply correct Baroque performance practices to a small ensemble. It is far more challenging to do so when the ensemble is the typical large community choral group. But it can be done.

While ornamentation should be expected in instrumental and solo vocal lines, our performances also utilized occasional ornamentation of the choral lines in appropriate places. There is no extant documentation to directly support such a practice, but doing so makes sense: The same "musical cues" that exist for solo vocal lines, exist within the choral lines. Examples: a “long” note, such as a whole note, was often a cue for the soloist or instrumentalist to add an ornament. So why should choral singers ignore the same cue and not trill the word “lamb” to simulate a bleating lamb? Why not ornament the long soprano note on the word “Judah” in the phrase “Say Unto the cities of JUDAH”  and “Lord” in “...the Glory of the LORD is Risen...”.) Observing terraced dynamics in the familiar “Hallelujah” chorus breathes fresh life into a colorful piece, re-invigorating it so we now hear it in the lively manner intended by the composer.

In order to provide permanent documentation of the important sociological and musical contributions of the Greater Hazleton Oratorio Society, Singers’ Guild of Scranton and Sinfonia da Camera to the lives of residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania, some of the 1977-1986 live performance analog recordings of these community groups were rescued, restored, and converted to a digital format. Those restorations and the performance excerpts that appear on this website are intended as historical documents not as an entertainment product. The copying or dissemination of these excerpts is strictly prohibited.

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