Tonight, the Davidson Fine Arts School Chorale, the Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir and the Southern Chorale of Georgia Southern University will unite at the Sacred Heart Cultural Center to perform Handel’s Rejoice, the Lord is King . It will be, 250 years after the composer’s death, the U.S. premiere.
The concert, which features a number of Handel pieces, will be directed by Tim Sharp, the executive director of the American Choral Directors Association. His association with the piece began in an English archive in 2005.
While on a sabbatical at Cambridge University, Sharp was alerted to incomplete manuscripts in the extensive Handel collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Though the pieces, which were a melody and coded bass parts written over a Charles Wesley hymn, had been published in the 19th century, they were considered sketches rather than complete works and were remembered only by a few scholars and enthusiasts. It was something, Sharp said, he had to see.
“Bear in mind, this kind of work is difficult,” he said. “You go into a protected room, and the curator must stay with you the entire time. You only get to see the material you requested. It’s not like you can ask to see something else on the spot. They’ll tell you to come back tomorrow.”
What Sharp saw was potential. He copied the manuscripts and took them to writing partner Wes Ramsey with the idea that the notes could be expounded upon.
“My idea was to try and figure out what Handel would have done had he blown it out, had he done this in the style of Messiah.“
Timothy Powell, the director of choral studies at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, said bringing the Handel piece to Augusta originated with the idea of doing a festival-style concert at Sacred Heart. It was his friend Sharp who suggested he commemorate the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death with a performance of Rejoice .
Powell said Handel’s approach to composition made filling in the gaps possible in a way it might not have been with another composer.
“That’s something that’s easy to do with Handel because of the way he wrote,” he said. “We have a lot of his scores that started out like this and then later editions where he has filled in those gaps.”
Though the results are not, Sharp said, like Messiah , they are certainly worthy of the Handel name.
“It’s very concerto-like,” he said. “It’s big and stately and really, really typical of