The Sixteen bring Handel masterpiece to Chichester Cathedral

Harry Christophers (c) Marco Borggreve
Harry Christophers (c) Marco Borggreve

The Sixteen will be staying true to the premiere in 1718 when they bring Handel’s Acis & Galatea to Chichester Cathedral on Wednesday, February 12 at 7.30pm.

They will present the most popular dramatic work of Handel’s lifetime in an intimate concert performance featuring a select group of five singers, plus nine instrumentalists from The Orchestra of The Sixteen. The piece offers a tale of love, tragedy and liberation, with the eternal love between mortal shepherd Acis and goddess Galatea doomed by the jealous cyclops Polyphemus.

Conductor Harry Christophers is delighted to be back in Chichester.

“We have been coming for years on and off, but more recently it has become a regular thing every year. Chichester is one of those cathedrals which is not just beautiful; it is also one of our slightly more intimate cathedrals, and that is just what we want for something like Handel’s Acis & Galatea which is a chamber piece, really.

“It just means that everyone in the building can really feel part of the sound and the music.

“Often in cathedrals with a much longer nave, the sound can feel a little bit lost, but in Chichester that is not a problem. And there are other cathedrals that have altered so much (screens, tapestries etc), but again that is not a problem in Chichester.

“We recorded Acis & Galatea last year, and it is a piece that shows the real strengths of The Sixteen. It is one of the early pieces that Handel wrote when he was resident here in England, and interestingly, though it is a secular piece, it was first performed in a church in north London. And it lends itself very well. It is just one of those beautiful pieces that send everyone away smiling.

“It’s a typical classical mythological tale, with the happy lovers enjoying things until a giant comes along. The young man is killed, but all the myths that are turned to music always end happily ever after, and Acis is reincarnated as a fountain and everything is alright!

“Handel was the master of orchestration and simplicity of the vocal line to great effect, but here in Acis, we really see him at his pictorial best and doing some very creative things.

“You think what the heck is he up to sometimes, but in the end it is just brilliant. There are lots of wonderful moments. The first half ends with an absolutely infectious duet between Acis and Galatea. It just bubbles along with great effervescence.

“One of the strengths of The Sixteen is the continuo section, and the sonorities that these instruments produce are just great at bringing out the sensuality and the drama of the piece. It is a very, very infectious piece.

“And the choir is made up of people that can really deliver good solos as well. I have got five of the very best, and they work together so well. The chemistry between Acis and Galatea is just fantastic. The language is so beautiful and colourful, and you can see that Handel is absolutely relishing every note that he puts on the page.”

Tickets from the Cathedral.

The performers are: Grace Davidson – Galatea; Jeremy Budd – Acis; Mark Dobell – Damon; Simon Berridge – Coridon; and Stuart Young – Polyphemus.

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