Friday, November 17, 2017

Paul Ayers’ “Handel Variations” to Return

Those who have been following me for a really long time may recall that, in December of 2009, the Sanford Dole Ensemble (SDE) honored (if you can call it that) the Christmas season with a performance of Messyah. This was the creation of Paul Ayres, an imaginative composer with a strong sense of humor, which he exercises on compositions from the past in an effort to inject them into the immediate present. The operative root of the title word is clearly “mess;” but it is the sort of mess that arises while making mud pies at the beach, rather than leaving a kitchen sink filled with dirty dishes.

When SDE performed Messyah at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2009, it was easy to appreciate and enjoy how Ayres was “messing around” with George Frideric Handel. Just about every genre was fair game for Ayres’ creative juices, including jazz, gospel, and even improvisation. However, his playfulness extended beyond the score pages, often adding theatrics to the mix. Thus, the entire chorus was required to “go astray” while singing “All we like sheep;” and the impression left by that performance still lingers in memory.

Nevertheless, at the time of that performance, Ayres had not yet completed his treatment of all the movements in Handel’s score. Therefore, about a year ago Dole and his Bay Choral Guild (BCG) reached out to Ayres with an offer to commission the completion of his composition. That task has now been achieved, complete with orchestral accompaniment. As a result, BCG will present the complete score of Messyah next month, once again for the benefit of those very much in need of an alternative take on seasonal traditions. The orchestra will be the Redwood Symphony led by Eric Kujawsky (who apparently prefers to be called “Eric K” these days, if I am to go by the ensemble’s Web site). The vocal soloists will be soprano Ann Moss, mezzo Kathleen Moss, tenor Michael Desnoyer, and bass Igor Vieira.

The San Francisco performance of Messyah will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 10. The venue will be St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street. BCG has created an event page for advance purchase of tickets online. General admission for such purchses will be $30 with a $25 rate for seniors and $10 for students. The student rate applies to those over eighteen with identification. Those under eighteen who attend with an adult paying either the general or the senior rate will be admitted for free. Dole will give a preview lecture beginning at 4 p.m.

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