Three hundred years ago, in anticipation of a grand cruise on the River Thames, King George I of England and Ireland requested composer George Frideric Handel to compose grand music for the occasion. In response, Handel composed a series of orchestral movements to be played by musicians aboard the barges that floated up and down the river accompanying the king. The orchestral suites, appropriately titled “Water Music,” were an instant hit with the king and have endured as well-loved and popular orchestral works to this day in concert halls across the world. The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Maj. Michelle A. Rakers, will perform the 2nd and 3rd suites of Handel’s Water Music at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29, at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. The concert, also titled “Water Music,” is free and no tickets are required. Free parking is also available in the adjacent garage.
“I thought we would take the opportunity to celebrate one of Handel’s most famous instrumental works, Water Music, written for the occasion of a royal cruise,” Rakers said. “Not all works of art can stand the test of time, and for a piece to still remain so popular 300 years later, the audience will enjoy the chance to revisit it and enjoy it with me.”
She added, “I chose to focus on Suites 2 and 3 to feature the most well-known selections of Handel’s masterpiece and I decided to pair it with other renditions of seaworthy selections.”
Interestingly, Handel’s Water Music isn’t the only “water music” on the program. The orchestra will also perform Ned Rorem’s duet for clarinet and violin titled Water Music. However, this much more contemporary piece, featuring clarinetist Staff Sgt. Meaghan Kawaller and violinist Staff Sgt. Sheng-Tsung Wang, was composed in 1966, leaving little in common with Handel’s work other than the title. Rorem admitted that although the title might suggest aquatic imagery or some sort of connection to Handel’s Water Music, there really isn’t any. “The writing for the violin is quite adventurous, taking full advantage of the instrument’s capabilities and expressiveness,” Wang said. “It’s a fun but challenging work.”
The final “water work” on the concert is John Knowles Paine’s Poseidon and Amphitrite; An Ocean Fantasy, Opus 44. This work was Paine’s final orchestral work and the American-born composer was the first to achieve fame for large-scale orchestral music. The first guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Paine also collaborated with an influential group of composers known as the Boston Six, which included Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, George Chadwick, and Horatio Parker.
Prior to the performance, a horn quartet will offer pre-concert music in the lobby beginning at 1:15 p.m. Also, Maj. Rakers and the soloists will be available in the lobby immediately following the concert for a post-concert chat.