Latest Press: 

  • AMF mentioned in The Score, Seattle Symphony’s blog
  • AMF mentioned in Seattle Symphony’s biography of Orli Shaham (shown on the left)
  • AMF mentioned in Tom Taylor’s on Radio-Info email newsletter (excerpt below)

TRI’s “No Names, Please” –Murphy’s Law of voicetracking - Marty Ronish says “I was working at a small station in a mid-range market, recording the overnights on our own local automation. I had a pulled muscle in my back and could hardly speak, so I said on the voice track, ‘If my voice sounds funny it’s because I have a pulled muscle in my back.’ The next morning, I got to work and found out that we had gone off the air at midnight just after the playback, because someone had deleted a wrap line in the automation code. An alert listener heard me say I was in pain – and then go silent. He called the station and got no answer [I was already home]. So thinking I’d had a collapse, he called the police. They broke in, set off the alarm, and the alarm company started calling down the list – GM, PD, etc. All of the bigwigs were awakened, three of them rushed to the station, and I slept blissfully through it all.” These days, Marty Ronish says “I produce the national broadcasts of the Chicago Symphony and the national series America’s Music Festivals, and I blog at Scanning the Dial.”

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Previous Press for Sweet Bird Classics

Marty Ronish, executive producer of America’s Music Festivals, also ran the American Handel Festival in Seattle in March 2011. Here’s just a sampling of the rave reviews:

Handel in Seattle: Major festival shows there’s much more to the man than ‘Messiah’

For the first time, The American Handel Festival makes a trip to Seattle, and for the first time it includes not just sessions for scholars, but 17 days of concerts and events for Handel-lovers from March 11-27, 2011.
By Story by Bernard Jacobson
Special to The Seattle Times
The American Handel Festival
For a complete list of the concerts and other events associated with the three-week festival (nearly all open to the public),
“To him I would bow the knee,” said Beethoven. The great Beethoven was not much given to gushing about his fellow composers, but George Frideric Handel, he said, “is the master of us all: the greatest effects with the simplest means.”
From Friday through March 27, Seattleites will have their best opportunity in years to test that judgment when The American Handel Festival comes to town. Founded in 1981, the American Handel Society presented the festival in its early years at the University of Maryland, but it has taken it on the road since the death of prime mover and Handel scholar Howard Serwer in 2000. This is its first trip to Seattle.
It is landing here thanks to musicologist Marty Ronish, a former student of Serwer’s who moved here in 2007 after working for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., and who has been the dynamo behind this year’s event.
“Normally,” she says, “the festival is a four-day scholarly conference with a couple of concerts, but Seattle had different ideas. Every single person I talked to wanted to be a part of it, and I figured, who was I to say no?”
So this time, as well as the usual conference and two workshops, the festival will stretch over 17 days and include no fewer than 30 concerts, involving key players in the city’s well-established early-music scene. Most of the events will take place in the First Hill neighborhood.
See the rest of the article here

Crosscut Tout: A heaping plate of Handel in March

By Tom Luce
This March 11-27 the peripatetic annual festival of Handel’s music sponsored by the American Handel Society visits Seattle. There will be 30 concerts giving Seattleites and all in the region an unrepeatable opportunity to explore one of classical music’s greatest and most approachable figures.
Handel himself was an internationally peripatetic composer. Born in Germany, he trained there and then in Italy, but spent most of his adult life in London. In his travels he acquired the skills necessary to write in different styles and forms — oratorios and sacred music for both catholic and protestant traditions, orchestral suites, instrumental concerti, and not least opera. He was one of music’s most adaptable, perhaps most opportunistic, composers. And he succeeded brilliantly in all the forms he tried.
March’s American Handel Festival covers the compass of his extraordinarily varied output and features a very wide range of performers. First off the starting blocks will be the Seattle Symphony conducted by baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan (Benaroya Hall, March 11 and 12), who will give the famous “Water Music” suite and with soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian an alluring selection of songs inspired by Queen Cleopatra.
See the rest of the article here.


We have our own page on KING-FM! Our friends at the classical station have been playing Handel’s music and interviewing our artists all month. You can hear these artists on-demand on the arts channel:Matthew Loucks on Handel’s Psalm Settings (Fri. Mar. 18, Evening Prayer at Our Lady of Fatima)
Byron Schenkman on Handel’s Keyboard writing (Sat. Mar. 26, Western Early Keyboard Association Conference)
Karen P. Thomas on Handel’s Early Choral Writing (Mar. 19-20, Seattle Pro Musica: Dixit Dominus)
Ben Bernstein, composer: The Man in the Mirror
Ross Hauck, tenor: The Man in the Mirror, and the oratorio Esther

KIRO News Radio:

Handel Festival explodes in Seattle

By Tom Tanney 

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We’re at the center of the classical music universe for the next three weeks, thanks to an unprecedented outpouring of love for a long dead composer.We all have the chance to get up close and personal with the music of George Frideric Handel at Handel Festival, now taking over Seattle.

He was fat, filthy rich and maybe even gay. But first and foremost, Handel was popular, not only the most popular composer of his day, but perhaps the most popular composer of all time. There’s never been a time in the two and a half centuries since his death when his music was ever out of favor. That’s almost impossible to say about any of his contemporaries, including Johann Sebastian Bach.
Marty Ronish, the director of this month’s massive Handel Festival in Seattle, says the key to Handel’s appeal is his melodies; in other words, what he wrote was catchy.
American Handel Festival, Seattle (1) : “Songs of Cleopatra,” Benaroya Hall, 11.3.2011; “Handel’s Divas,” Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, 13.3.2011 (BJ) by Bernard Jacobson Two remarkable sopranos, one long established as a baroque expert, the other a more recent arrival on the scene, helped to get the American Handel Festival-presented for the first time in Seattle-off to a very auspicious start over the weekend. The newcomer was Isabel Bayrakdarian, a thrilling soloist on the opening Friday, when the Seattle Symphony played under the leadership of one of the world’s leading Handelians, Nicholas McGegan, whose concerts are never less than exhilarating. Sunday afternoon’s offering, though on a much smaller scale, was equally satisfying: teaming up with three luminaries of Seattle’s thriving early-music community, Julianne Baird showed that she has lost none of her artistry and technique since I used to hear her in Philadelphia a decade ago-indeed, she sounded better than ever. Read more…
Review: Seattle Times, March 17:

Review: One-act ‘The Man in the Mirror’ has fun with Handel

A review of the new one-act opera, “The Man in the Mirror,” starring tenor Ross Hauck, making its world premiere at the American Handel Festival in Seattle.
By Bernard Jacobson, Special to The Seattle Times‘The Man in the Mirror’
Most of what Handel wrote fits comfortably within that questionable category, “serious music.” But his opera “Xerxes,” with its opening number addressed to a beloved tree, is one among many clues that he had a keen sense of humor. I think he would have enjoyed the half-hour of comic entertainment that had its world premiere Wednesday in Trinity Parish Church. See the review here.

A short comic fantasy on a Handel theme

From Crosscut, March 17: By Tom Luce
The American Handel Festival, now in full swing here in Seattle, includes a newly commissioned short comic opera, “The Man in the Mirror,” by Ben Bernstein which had its first performance — a world premiere — in First Hill’s Trinity Parish Church yesterday (March 16) at lunch time.
What we see is a professional tenor gradually dressing for a “Messiah” performance in front of a mirror, from his boxers up to his white tie and tail coat. At the same time he does various physical and vocal exercises to get his voice in shape. He warms up by trying out various parts of his “Messiah” solos, especially the opening recitative “Comfort Ye” and the following aria (“Every Valley Shall be Exalted”…). He dreams of other tenor lives — as a heart-throb Rodolfo in Puccini’s “Boheme,” and as the enamoured young prince in “Kismet.” Read the article here.

There’s something about spoofs…

by Special to The Gathering Note on March 18, 2011
By Philippa Kiraly
If you haven’t already planned to go, and particularly if you are a singer, don’t miss Friday night’s final performance of “The Man in the Mirror.” It’s the light relief of the ongoing American Handel Festival, and a tour de force by tenor Ross Hauck.
Thursday afternoon he performed it at the Frye Art Museum, ably abetted by harpsichordist Phebe Craig, cellist David Morris and voices off: Steven Hoffman, Katherine Howell and Kali Wilson.
It’s a one-act pocket opera, maybe just a watch-pocket as it’s under 40 minutes, but you will sit there rivetted all that time as Hauck rushes into what is purported to be his dressingroom, clothes under arm—except for forgotten shoes—and attired at the start only in bright red boxers, to dress and warm up for a performance of “Messiah” as the tenor soloist.
Any singer will recognize what he is going through, from vocal warm ups, to physical exercises—yoga, anyone?—to the mental hangups of anyone suffering pre-performance nerves, and the vagaries of daily life as they flit through the mind.
No way am I going to spoil it for you by describing what goes on. Suffice it that the result is hilarious, Hauck has as expressive a face and body as voice, while tying a bow tie has never been more trying.
“The Man in the Mirror” (you, the audience, are the mirror) was composed by Ben Bernstein for the festival and these performances are its premiere.
The final performance, Friday night at 9.30 at the Sorrento Hotel, includes wine and dessert and is a fundraiser for the festival. for tickets.


CLASSICAL MUSIC: Handel in Seattle: a festival not to be missed

By Bernard Jacobson for the Kitsap Sun

Sunday, March 6, 2011

He was born in Germany, in 1685. His reputation began to develop during the six years he spent as a young man in Italy, where he was hailed as “the dear Saxon.” But it was the final five decades of his life that unequivocally established George Frideric Handel, settled throughout that time in London, as a major master.

Just how major? Well, Ludwig van Beethoven, not a man much given to sprinkling compliments, declared of Handel: “To him I would bow the knee.” He was, Beethoven declared, “the master of us all: the greatest effects with the simplest means.”

From March 11 to 27, music lovers in the Seattle area – doubtless joined by visitors from all over – will have what might well be their best opportunity ever to test the accuracy of that judgement. The American Handel Festival is coming to town.

Founded in 1981, the American Handel Society presented the festival for its first years at the University of Maryland, but it has taken to the road since the death of prime-mover Howard Serwer in 2000. We’re indebted for its landing in Seattle to musicologist Marty Ronish, a former student of Serwer’s who moved here in 2007 from National Public Radio in Washington, DC, and who has been the dynamo organizing this year’s event.

“Normally,” Ronish says, “the festival is a four-day scholarly conference with a couple of concerts, but Seattle had different ideas. Every single person I talked to wanted to be a part of it, and I figured who was I to say no?” So this time, as well as the conference and two workshops–one of them offering the opportunity to sing Handel choruses for yourself–the festival will stretch over 17 days. Included are no fewer than 30 concerts, offering a liberal choice from the composer’s huge output, which includes 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios, and duets, and chamber music for various instruments, as well as arias, odes, and serenatas, 16 organ concertos, and two substantial sets of orchestral concertos. Most of the events will take place in the First Hill neighborhood, within walking distance from the Sorrento Hotel, which has provided both moral and material support in the course of the preparations.

One of the most significant features of this Handel festival is that it will not include a performance of Messiah. That masterpiece kept Handel’s repute alive for many years when the rest of his music was virtually a closed book, and it’s still–along with the delightful Water Music–what people tend to think of first when his name is mentioned. But in the view of this critic at least, the emphasis does the composer a disservice, for his catalog of works includes many that are perhaps even greater. The reason for this, I think, is that Handel’s genius resides before anything else in his ability, through purely musical means, to create rivetingly real and moving human beings. In Messiah, the vocal soloists are just that–simply vocal soloists; they do not portray specific characters.

So I am especially delighted that the charming and picturesque chamber opera Acis and Galatea will have a staged performance in Town Hall on March 25, and that one of the finest of Handel’s oratorios, Esther, will be heard the following day in the acoustically glorious St. James Cathedral. One of Seattle’s own leading early-music performers, Stephen Stubbs (who rose to international stature while living in Germany for 30 years before coming back to his home town), collaborates with Paul O’Dette and stage director Gilbert Blin in the visiting Boston Early Music Festival’s Acis, and then conducts his own Pacific Musicworks and the Tudor Choir in Esther, with soloists Shannon Mercer, Ross Hauck, Charles Robert Stephens, Zachary Wilder, Catherine Webster, and Matthew White.

Read the article here.

Handel’s Dixit Dominus: a paradox of beauty and fury

by Zach Carstensen on March 23, 2011 from The Gathering Note

Handel’s Dixit Dominus is a curious testament to GF Handel’s time in Italy. A setting of Psalm 109, it is on the one hand a deeply spiritual statement. Handel’s contrapuntal inventiveness and his flexible, often soaring writing for chorus and vocal soloists, do more than state Christian beliefs, they embody a deep spirituality. On the other hand, the text — angry, vengeful, furious — seldom matches the spirit of Handel’s music. There is plenty of mention of enemies (“your foes I will put beneath your feet”); power (“rule in the midst of all your foes”); violence (“he shall crush the heads in the land of many”); and of course judgment (“he shall judge among the nations…”) This is the paradox of the Dixit Dominus and it is also exactly why I am moved by the piece every time I hear it.

Last weekend Karen Thomas and Seattle Pro Musica brought not just Handel’s Dixit Dominus, but also his Chandos Anthem No. 8 and Utrecht Jubilate Deo to St. James Cathedral. The performance served double duty. It was both Pro Musica’s spring concert and part of the ongoing American Handel Festival in Seattle. Not surprisingly, all three pieces came across splendidly in the warm sound world of St. James.

Read the article here.


Portland Baroque presents Bach’s St John Passion as part of Handel Festival

by Special to The Gathering Note on March 22, 2011

By Philippa Kiraly

We don’t often have the opportunity to hear either of the great Bach Passions, so we owe a big vote of thanks to the Early Music Guild for bringing us a stellar performance of the St. John Passion by Portland Baroque Orchestra, Les Voix Baroques, and Cappella Romana, Sunday afternoon at Town Hall.

Monica Huggett, violinist and artistic director of Portland Baroque, chose to perform it with a small orchestra of fourteen and small chorus of twelve.which included the soloists. While this Passion is shorter than the St. Matthew, two and a quarter hours including an intermission, this puts quite a burden on the singers who stood throughout, particularly tenor Charles Daniels, who sang all the chorales and choruses as well as the demanding role of the Evangelist.

With forces of this size, probably similar to those Bach had at his disposal, it was possible to hear every detail of the harmonies, and while words were often not very clear in the choral parts, every word the soloists sang was audible. Daniels was a superb Evangelist. Accompanied by continuo harpsichord and cello and standing on a podium in the midst of the orchestra, he was a compelling and consummate storyteller as well as fine singer.

Read the article here.

A Bach masterpiece, uncommonly well served

Article by Tom Luce for, March 21, 2011

Early Music Guild presents a deeply moving and musically accomplished ‘St. John Passion.’

Sunday afternoon (March 20), one day shy of Bach’s birth 326 years ago, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, led from the front desk of the violins by the English violinist and conductor Monica Huggett, gave a musically accomplished and dramatically powerful performance at Town Hall Seattle of the composer’s “Passion According to St. John.” Working with them were singers from the Canadian group Les Voix Baroques and, also from Portland, Cappella Romana.

The event was part the Early Music Guild’s current season and also a highlight of the American Handel Society’s Handel Festival in Seattle. We are in the season of Lent, when these Passions were performed. Bach and Handel were born in the same year, 1685. They knew of and admired each other though never quite met, so its timing was apposite in every way you can think of.

I make no bones about my own conviction that Bach is the supreme genius of Western music so far, and perhaps even of Western civilization, and that his two main surviving settings of the Christian Passion are amongst his very greatest works. No excuse is needed for programming these works at any time of year, even though the long tradition of giving them in the run up to Easter started with their first performances in Leipzig in the 1720s and such musical celebrations of the Passion (Christ’s suffering and crucifixion) had roots going even further back into the late middle ages.

[...] What we had in the Portland Baroque’s performance yesterday bridged these two approaches. With relatively small forces — around 12 instrumentalists and the same number of singers — the textures were light and clear. In the wonderfully complex dramatic opening chorus of supplication, grief, and praise, “Herr, unser Herrscher,” for example, it was easy to hear the pulsating grief-ridden bass, the pungent descending lines in the oboes, the agitated string figurations, and the impassioned exclamations of the chorus. In the chorales and narrative choruses, the singers and instruments were uncommonly well balanced.
Read the article here.

Julianne Baird entrances Gallery concertgoers

Special to The Gathering Note on March 17, 2011

By Philippa Kiraly

I first heard soprano Julianne Baird singing Baroque arias around a quarter century ago. I thought her voice was perfect then, but now, maturity has added more depth to a rich purity of sound making hearing her an experience not readily forgotten.

Baird was performing with Gallery Concerts at Queen Anne Christian Church Saturday and Sunday in the opening weekend of this month’s Handel Festival. Together with harpsichordist Jillon Stoppels Dupree, violinist Tekla Cunningham and gamba player Margriet Tindemans, and a delightful lecture prior to the concert by George Bozarth, the concert gave a fine sampling of Handel’s oratorical and operatic activities punctuated by instrumental works.

Baird sang arias in English from the oratorios “Joshua” and “Semele,” including from the former the best known of the works she sang, “O! Had I Jubal’s Lyre,” and others from the operas “Radamisto,” Rodelinda,” and Lotario.” These are just a sprinkling from the more than 40 operas and 20 oratorios which came from Handel’s fertile mind, though many may have had arias recycled from previous works.
It was a fascinating juxtaposition to have heard, Friday, Handel and contemporary arias sung at the SSO’s “Songs of Cleopatra” program by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, and then Baird two days later: very different voices, each persuasive in the literature.

The immediate impression created by Baird, was the ease with which she sang. These arias are florid, fast and complex, and range all over the map vocally and dynamically.

Baird accomplished the long melismatic runs and the trills of variable speeds like a hummingbird’s hoverings, sounding so relaxed she could give her all to the emotional content.

Perhaps her most memorable performance was her second aria, “”O, Sleep, Why Dost Thou Leave Me?” from “Semele.” Anyone who suffers from insomnia could have related to the anguish she portrayed in Handel’s exquisite music.

Read the article here.


A busy weekend for Seattle Baroque fans, with Handel Festival

A busy weekend of Handel Festival and Baroque events in Seattle March 18-20, including “Dixit Dominus” and Bach’s St. John Passion.

By Tom Keogh, Special to The Seattle Times

American Handel Festival

For information on the festival, in Seattle through March 27: 206-999-7045 or

The sprawling ambition of the American Handel Festival, which includes an American Handel Society conference plus 30 concerts over 17 days, continues this weekend at various Seattle venues.

What to look for around town:


Our Lady of Fatima Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra (playing period instruments), directed by Matthew Loucks, presents “Evening Prayer,” music composed by a young Handel for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the church of St. Maria de Monte Santo in Rome.

7:30 p.m., Our Lady of Fatima Parish, 3307 W. Dravus St. $15 goodwill offering is requested.

Later on Friday, the festival hosts a 9:30 p.m. fundraiser at the Sorrento Hotel built around “The Man in the Mirror,” a new, one-act opera by Ben Bernstein. Popular Seattle tenor Ross Hauck stars in a comic and poignant backstage glimpse at a singer’s self-doubt while preparing for a performance of “Messiah.”

900 Madison St., $50, includes wine and dessert; 206-999-7045.

Read the article here.


Review: Seattle Symphony and guest soprano set Handel fest beautifully in motion

Seattle Symphony kicks off the American Handel Festival with a program including soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and well-known Handelian conductor Nicholas McGegan, on March 11 and 12, 2011.

By Bernard Jacobson, Special to The Seattle Times

‘Songs of Cleopatra’

Seattle Symphony, with Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano, and Nicholas McGegan conducting, 8 p.m. Saturday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $39-$70 (206-215-4747 or


The American Handel Festival, set to bring Seattleites a generous sampling of the master’s music over the next two weeks, got off to an auspicious start on Friday evening. Isabel Bayrakdarian was a thrilling soloist, and the Seattle Symphony played under the leadership of one of the leading Handelians of our time, Nicholas McGegan, a conductor whose concerts are never less than exhilarating.

The best composer-centered festivals tend to be those that present the subject of their focus not in isolation, but set in context by work from other hands. This festival is no exception. Friday’s brilliant and stylish performances of an F-major suite from Handel’s “Water Music,” excerpts from his opera “Giulio Cesare,” and his G-major Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 1, were flanked by explorations of three of his German contemporaries.

The evening was headlined “Songs of Cleopatra.” That Egyptian queen is famous not only for her political acumen but for her bewitching appearance, so it was appropriate that the singer representing her on the stage of Benaroya Hall is herself a striking beauty.

Isabel Bayrakdarian’s good looks, however, are worthily matched by her voice and artistry. The voice itself is essentially a lyric soprano, but she wields it with more power than that designation would suggest. The arias she sang from Graun’s “Cleopatra e Cesare” and Hasse’s “Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra” called forth some fearless coloratura, free and flexible throughout the range, and clear in the separation between notes even at rapid tempos.

Perhaps more impressive still was her profound identification with the grief of the death scene from “Cleopatra,” by Johann Mattheson, who once fought a duel with Handel but remained on terms of close friendship with him. The four sections of this intensely emotional excerpt ended the official program, but the ovation that greeted its performance was rewarded with an aria from the same work, and this little gem reinforced the impression that this neglected composer and his music must surely be candidates for rediscovery.

Read the article here.


First Hill and Capitol Hill are home base for ‘Handel in Seattle’ festival

By blogger mvb, as posted on CHS Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

The American Handel Society is gathering in Seattle for its biennial conference, and even if you’re not a Handel scholar (look, no one’s saying you’re not), there are plenty of performances to take in at the American Handel Festival, or “Handel in Seattle.” More than two dozen performances are scheduled between now and March 27, with many taking place on Capitol and First Hill.

The Seattle Symphony kicked off the festival downtown this weekend, with conductor Nicholas McGegan and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in Songs of Cleopatra. Your typical G. F. Handel work will feature an antique god or goddess, or at least a king and queen or mythical figure, and often some fireworks on the harpsichord. Handel shredded, harpsichord-wise. I’m told it’s no longer de rigueurto wear the buckled, platform shoes and silk hose to a Handel concert, but suit yourself.

It’s not all Handel all the time though–March 17, the Frye Art Museum hosts the world premiere of the one-act stage-fright opera, The Man in the Mirror, by Ben Bernstein, master teacher at the San Francisco Opera and director of the Singer’s Gym. A tenor, warming up in front of a mirror, begins to hear voices in his head. At first, they’re congratulatory, but then they turn on him and his self-esteem. The tenor in this case is Ross Hauck, a popular Seattle singer and voice professor at Seattle University. (You may know him from such early music hits as Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea.)

Read the article here.

American Handel Festival launched Friday night at Benaroya

Special to The Gathering Note on March 13, 2011

By R.M Campbell

Arguably the most ambitious exploration of Handel ever held in Seattle — the American Handel Festival — opened Friday night with soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian singing music written for the famed Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

Along with J.S. Bach, Handel is one of the twin towers of Baroque music. It is a mountain top, rather mountain range, well worth time spent in it and gazing upon it. That is exactly what this festival aims to do via 30 performances of music by the master and his contemporaries with more than 25 organizations, such as the Seattle Symphony Orchestra Friday night, in attendance. In addition to orchestral music there will performances of his chamber opera “Acis and Galatea” and the oratorio “Esther,” as well as Bach’s “St. John’s Passion” and all manner of novelties that should attract a wide range of listeners. The American Handel Society, founded in 1981, held the the festival in its early days on the campus of the University of Maryland. Subsequently, it has gone on tour, this year to Seattle, organized by the energetic and informed Marty Ronish, who lives in Edmonds, but enjoys a national presence.

“Songs of Cleopatra” is part of the symphony’s Basically Baroque Series. The orchestra is stripped to the essentials, some semblance of historic style enforced (how different from 20 years ago). Often early music specialists are imported for the podium. On Friday, and Saturday night, one of the best, Nicholas McGegan, filled that bill.

Read the article here.

American Handel Festival

Wednesday, Mar 2 2011 from The Seattle Weekly

In addition to the color, drama, and catchy tunes that have kept the music of Handel (1685-1759) popular for centuries, he’s just spiritually more approachable than most A-list composers. Compared to the unworldly—or supra-worldly—Bach, Handel “spent his life in showbiz,” as Seattle Baroque’s Byron Schenkman once put it; he was more interested in the extravagant artifice of opera than in church music. (Handel’s late-life switch to Biblical oratorio, à la Messiah, was no less fashion- or income-driven a career move.) Thanks to annual sing-along Messiahs, he’s probably the composer most frequently performed by nonprofessional musicians. So naturally there’s a strong DIY element to this month’s American Handel Festival: master classes and other playing opportunities alongside the near-daily lineup of concerts by a couple dozen local and visiting ensembles. As in any responsible music festival, there’ll be contemporary takes on Handel’s legacy: Ben Bernstein‘s one-man opera The Man in the Mirror (March 16-18) looks inside the head of a tenor (Ross Hauck) preparing for a Messiah performance. Other performers and presenters include Seattle Pro Musica, Seattle Early Dance, Boston Early Music Festival, and much more. The fest’s official opening is tonight’s Seattle Symphony concert, in which sopranoIsabel Bayrakdarian takes on the legend of Cleopatra in opera arias written for that character by Handel and a few compatriots. GAVIN BORCHERT
Fri., March 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 12, 8 p.m.; March 13-27, 2011

Read this article here.