The Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale will conclude its 2018-19 season with George Frederic Handel’s “Alexander’s Feast,” or the Power of Musick, at 8 p.m., May 18, at the Antelope Valley College Performing Arts Theatre, 3041 West Ave. K.
The piece weaves together ancient history with Greek mythology and Christian liturgy.
The oratorio is based on 17th century English poet John Dryden’s poem of the same name, which celebrates the power of music to stir the soul. Dryden, England’s first poet laureate, wrote the ode in 1697 in celebration of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.
“It’s a very big show,” AVSOMC Artistic Director David Newby said. “It’s a great piece. It’s one of Handel’s best-known works, of course the ‘Messiah’ is the most famous piece he wrote. I’d say this is probably his second-most famous vocal piece.”
The quasi-historical piece refers to a victory celebration that followed the Battle of Persepolis. In Dryden’s ode, Alexander the Great, having just defeated the Persian King Darius III, celebrates at the Royal Palace in Persepolis with a grand feast. The feast features Alexander’s lover, the beautiful Thaïs and Timotheus, a poet and singer, played the flute and the lute.
“The focus of the piece is on Timotheus,” Newby said. “He is so adept at changing the moods of each moment and acknowledging and bringing out the different emotions of the day, that supposedly then in recognition of that, the gods open up the sky and applaud him and then ultimately God bestows the church organ in the form of St. Cecilia at the very end.”
The show opens with a celebratory piece about Alexander the Great’s bravery and the beauty of Thaïs. There is a drinking song, with the chorus “Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,” and a song mourning the death of Darius III.
“It’s really very beautiful and touching,” Newby said. “He’s left on the battlefield, as we are told, without a friend to close his eyes.”
There is also a song about a Grecian ghost and the dead soldiers left on the battlefield for eternity,
“It is truly epic and I think people will love it,” Newby said.
The show features four soloists: soprano Shannon Kauble, baritone Ian Walker and former AV College students tenor Anthony Ray and mezzo-soprano Tiffany Argumedo.
Tickets cost $21 for adults and $19 for seniors, military and AV College staff; and $11 for youth 18 and under, and AV College students with an ID.
For details visit www.avc.edu or call 661-722-6580.