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Handel anthems highlight concert

First Presbyterian Music Director James Yeager.

The coronation anthems of George Frideric Handel’s stand as the most famous pieces of music written for royalty.

The University of New Mexico University Chorus and the First Presbyterian Choir will form a 110-member choir singing two of those anthems on Tuesday, April 30, at First Presbyterian Church. The singers will be accompanied by a grand pipe organ and chamber orchestra, with baritone Jonathan Patton as soloist.

The composer used text from the King James Bible to pen “Zadok the Priest” and “Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened.”

“Zadok the Priest” comes from the Book of Samuel account of the anointing of Solomon by Zadok and Nathan, describing the people’s rejoicing.

“Handel used it to highlight the kingship,” First Presbyterian Music Director James Yeager said.

“Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened” comes from Psalm 89.

“It talks about the way that the king shall rule; how his leadership will strengthen the kingdom,” Yeager said. “All the texts are about various aspects of the king.

“I think this is some of Handel’s finest choral writing,” Yeager said. “The Hallelujahs at the end of the pieces surpass even ‘The Messiah.’ ”

The kingly theme pervades the program, including the “Five Mystical Songs” of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

“They’re all about Easter,” Yeager said. “They’re mystical poems by George Herbert.”

Herbert was a Welsh-born poet and Anglican priest.

The UNM University Chorus will sing a set including three American pieces by Aaron Copland, Randall Thompson and Z. Randall Stroope. The First Presbyterian Choir will perform “When David Heard” by Thomas Weelkes and “Sing Joyfully” by William Byrd.

The concert is free, with a $10 suggested donation.


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