Each year at Christmas, the London Handel Festival presents Messiah from St George’s church in Hanover Square, London, where Handel worshipped. This year, because of restrictions around Covid-19 we are doing things slightly differently and will present instead our Messiah Reimagined.
Subject to regulations regarding the recently announced ‘lockdown’ for England, our plan for 3 December is to proceed with soloists and a small professional baroque orchestra in the church, performing live and all choruses pre-recorded by six choirs – five partner choirs and a special all comers Sing At Home Chorus of amateur singers.
Laurence Cummings will lead four star soloists, mostly past finalists from the Handel Singing Competition, and the London Handel Orchestra to perform live from St George’s, Hanover Square in London’s Mayfair – Handel’s own church. This is a carefully managed socially-distanced arrangement behind closed doors, with no audience present in keeping with current lockdown regulations in the UK. The choruses have been prepared and pre-recorded by seven choirs, including our ‘Sing at Home’ chorus of some 150 singers from 16 countries, and will be integrated digitally into the overall performance. The whole event will be livestreamed on Facebook for global audiences to enjoy free, and will also be available on YouTube, where it will remain afterwards.
Please share with all your friends and be part of the community watching this “once in a lifetime” online event.
This will be a truly unmissable event, so please make a note in your diary now to enjoy the unique experience.
We currently have some 150 participants in our ‘Sing at Home’ choir from all across the UK, and from Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Panama, UAE, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, Puerto Rico, the United States and Australia, so across five continents – a really international crowd! The deadline has now passed to take part in this project, but we will be live-streaming the performance on Facebook and other digital platforms so keep checking this page for further details of how to watch.
Would you like to take part in the next Messiah Re-Imagined project?
Plans are already in train for a bigger version of the project with a performance in Handel’s church on Easter Monday 2021 (5 April). Once again a professional baroque orchestra and soloists will perform live with pre-recorded choruses from choirs in the UK and around the world and a specially assembled “Sing at Home” choir. If you are an amateur singer and would like to be part of the “Sing at Home” chorus then put a date in your diary for 1 December when booking opens. Further details will appear on this page on 1 December.
How does it work?
When you become a member of the ‘Sing at Home’ chorus you will be asked to prepare and record three choruses from Messiah – ‘And the glory’, ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ and the magnificent ‘Hallelujah!’ chorus. Your recording will be combined with the videos from the other members to create a professionally produced video, set against the perfect backdrop of Handel’s own church, and that will be broadcast live as part of the performance at Easter.
How will you help me prepare?
To help prepare for this unique event, you can virtually “attend” three pre-recorded rehearsal sessions with our Musical Director and renowned baroque conductor, Laurence Cummings – we will send you a link, you can download to watch any time before recording.
A specially recorded backing track prepared by the London Handel Orchestra will also be available together with clear and easy instructions for choir members on how to record and submit their videos. The backing track features full baroque orchestra (at baroque pitch) and voice parts as a guide so you are not singing alone.
This year choir members have received special invitations to live panel discussions with Laurence Cummings and some of the world’s leading experts on Handel’s Messiah. We aim to have similar events in future. You will need to provide your own Messiah score; most editions are fine.
What if I’ve never participated in a virtual choir before?
We would be delighted to welcome singers who have not yet had the opportunity to be part of a virtual choir. As long as you are enthusiastic, keen to practice and can find a suitable place to record yourself it shouldn’t be a problem. Simple instructions will be provided on the best way for you, or a member of your family or a friend to make your recording.
What is special about this project?
This is the very first project of its type, and a unique opportunity for you to add your voice to an event which will be broadcast live from Handel’s own church. The musical support for the project is provided by the excellent London Handel Orchestra, a specialist professional baroque ensemble and Laurence Cummings, one of the leading conductors in the world for Handel.
Who else is involved in this project?
As well as the ‘Sing at Home’ choir, we will be working with choral partners from existing choirs in the UK and around the world to produce recordings of the remainder of the choruses. On the evening of the live performance the London Handel Orchestra and professional soloists, past winners of our prestigious international Handel Singing Competition, will perform the solo arias and orchestral passages live from Handel’s church.
What is the fee for taking part?
As you will no doubt appreciate, these are challenging times for our musical community and we are therefore charging a price of £25 per singer. By participating you would be helping support the London Handel Festival and the musicians who make up the professional orchestra.
Will I be able to watch the final performance?
The whole event will be live streamed (with virtual choruses added) on social media, so that viewers all over the world can watch for free. It will be available for several weeks after the event, so your family and friends can watch it at their own leisure. You will be sent details of the event in advance to share.
What kind of singers are you looking for?
Anyone who has some choral experience, enthusiasm and familiarity with Messiah is welcome to take part. We welcome tenors and basses in particular, and we are keen to make this a truly international project, so singers from countries outside the United Kingdom are warmly encouraged to take part.
London Handel Festival
The London Handel Festival is an annual celebration of the life and work of composer George Frideric Handel, who made his home in London and wrote most of his major works here. Since its inception in the 1970s, the Festival has established a firm place in London’s cultural calendar, with loyal audiences, critical acclaim and international recognition and reach. Our base is St.George’s, Hanover Square in the heart of London’s Mayfair, where Handel was a parishioner, and we also present concerts across the capital at a range of venues, from the Wigmore Hall to the Royal Opera House. Each year we reach 5,000 people with our packed calendar of events, ranging from grand opera and oratorio to intimate chamber music recitals, supplemented by a range of insight talks, guided walks, and participation activities, such as our popular ‘Come and Sing’ event. The 2020 Festival, with the theme “Handel and the Hanoverians” had 40 events planned, exploring the links between the composer and the reigning monarchy at the time to whom Handel dedicated much of his music, and whose patronage he enjoyed. Sadly we had to cancel two-thirds of our events in March/April because of Covid-19.
London Handel Orchestra
The London Handel Orchestra was formed in 1981 to perform at the annual London Handel Festival. The orchestra is made up of some of London’s finest period instrument players and is today directed by Laurence Cummings and Adrian Butterfield. It has gained an excellent reputation for historically informed performance and contributed greatly to the revival of interest in Handel’s music. The orchestra appears throughout the Festival at venues including St George’s, Hanover Square (Handel’s own church), St John’s Smith Square and Wigmore Hall, and has now performed the great majority of Handel’s operas, oratorios and orchestral works as well as many works by his contemporaries. The orchestra also gives concerts across the country and abroad outside the Festival period. Last year the orchestra made its début at the Royal Opera House, with 8 sold-out performances of Berenice the first time the work had been performed there since Handel conducted it in 1738. The production received 4 and 5-star reviews in the national press.
“I challenge anyone to see this show and fail to come out enchanted by the beauty and inventiveness of the score. The London Handel Orchestra under Cummings’ direction plays with quintessential Baroque grace and verve.”
[Michael Church, Independent (5-stars), 2019]
Laurence Cummings – our Musical Director
“Cummings’s pacing of Handel’s ear-tickling tunes is impeccable.”
[Richard Morrison, The Times, 2019]