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Israel in Egypt: Handel

6pm, 3pm onĀ 18th and 19th April, 2015 at Hunter Baillie Church, Annandale

Leichhardt Espresso Chorus divides into 2 choirs to sing Handel's epic masterpiece, Israel in Egypt.  Conducted by acclaimed Artistic Director Michelle Leonard, the work features soaring solo parts and a world class orchestra.  Not to be missed.

Concert duration is approximately 110 minutes

But what's it all about?

And why a frog?...The first part of this famous oratorio is about the ‘10 Plagues of Moses’.  Ten seemed to be a popular number when Moses was around...   According to the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus, the Egyptian Pharoah put all the Israelites into slavery. Not happy with their lot, they called upon God to help them out. God saw this a fairly crucial opportunity to wreak havoc on the Egyptians, and not only release his people, but prove once and for all that his power was so much greater than the Egyptian gods’. 

And it wasn’t just a bit of havoc. God raised the stakes by hardening the heart of the Pharaoh so he wouldn’t give in easily. This was a fight that had to be indelibly inked into history. People all over the world had to talk about it.   So God could manifest this great power he created the Ten Plagues of Egypt. This is the part where all the frogs, boils, lice, thunderstorms, locusts, diseases and pestilence come in. He turned the waters into blood and killed all the first born children of the Egyptians (but spared the Israelites who marked their doors with lamb blood so he would know who they were).

The rest of Handel’s piece is about the Israelites escaping – when the tide went out and the Red Sea parted just for them but then swallowed up the pursuing Egyptians. The end is a massive celebration of their deliverance into the kingdom of God.  Stirring and dramatic stuff, perfect fodder for a composer! Heaps of action and a wonderful opportunity for large bold musical statements! And this was all before Charlton Heston shirt-fronted the Romans in his Hollywood chariots. 

Israel in Egypt premiered at London’s King’s Theatre in the Haymarket on April 4, 1739, three years before the premiere of his Messiah. It’s first performance was not well received – it was way too long. So Handel took out his red pen, deleted the first part and added some Italian-style arias. It still took a while to catch on and it wasn’t until after he died that it became one of his most performed oratorios, second only to Messiah. 

Incredibly prodigious, Handel wrote a massive 29 oratorios, as well as 42 operas,, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes and serenatas, and 16 organ concerti.