Handel Choir of Baltimore is an oratorio society of auditioned singers, currently 50, with a seventy-eight-year history of performing choral and choral-orchestral repertory. In addition to its uninterrupted annual tradition of performing Handel's Messiah, the Handel Choir takes pride in presenting a wide range of music, from classical to modern compositions, and in performing throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.
With the arrival in 2004 of artistic director & conductor Melinda O'Neal, Handel Choir refocussed its perspective to include performance of baroque, classical and early-romantic music with an orchestra of original instruments. The inauguration of the Handel Period Instrument Orchestra has offered the Choir and it's audiences a taste of how the music may well have sounded at the time of its first performances. Today the music can be heard afresh; phrasing, articulation, balances, text pronunciation and tempos are delivered quite differently from fashions audiences have become accustomed to over recent decades. This new, but old, perspective on how the choral-orchestral music of Bach, Handel, Mozart and others sounded, is offered to Baltimore audiences exclusively by the Handel Choir.
While the Choir remains committed to performing in a variety of earlier styles and genres, the organization performs 19th to 21st century music as well. Repertoire has included music of Fauré, Bernstein, Poulenc, Lauridsen, Duruflé and Berlioz and recently commissioned Requiem for the Fallen by Jonathan Leshnoff and The Song of the Shulamite by Donald McCullough.
Intending to reach a broad audience base, the Handel Choir performs in venues throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area, including concert halls, churches, chapels, synagogues and for civic engagements and retirement centers.
The Handel Choir has received many fine reviews in recent years. The Choir was singled out as one of fifteen "highest-highpoints" of the classical music year according to Baltimore Sun reviewer Tim Smith. Similarly, the performance of Haydn's The Creation was a wonderful success: "The turnout — and the performance level — reaffirmed the strides the ensemble has been making in recent years. … Melinda O'Neal, the choir's artistic director, shaped Haydn's wonderfully descriptive music with an ear for drama and flow. Her choristers were attentive to subtleties of articulation, phrasing and balance. The orchestra of period instruments … played with vibrant color. The guest soloists brought vocal refinement and eloquence of line to their assignments." -Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, March 27, 2007
photos by Will Kirk