WEEKEND — Master of 'Messiah': Conductor brings light of Handel to sing-along in Sequim tonight

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — The maestro has sung it. Played the oboe in it.

And he has guided others through Handel's “Messiah,” so many times that it feels like home.

Dewey Ehling, conductor of the sing-along “Messiah” known in these parts as Handel with Care, is inviting his community to join him for the 13th annual gathering at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., tonight.

The veteran music director of the Handel with Care orchestra, the Port Townsend Community Orchestra and the Peninsula Singers, Ehling has chosen excerpts from the “Messiah” to be sung from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Listeners are welcome too, with musical scores provided for everybody.

Admission to tonight's Handel with Care is by donation to Sequim Community Aid, the provider of rent and utility assistance to local families in need.

And as in past years, an anonymous donor has given a matching grant that will double all comers' contributions.

“It's wonderful that this has been going on now for so long,” said Shirley Anderson, the Sequim volunteer who cofounded Handel with Care. The event traditionally comes between Christmas and New Year's Day. And for many who participate, she added, “This is Christmas.”

This “Messiah” is also the handiwork of Ehling, and an event that attracts singers and non-singers from across the North Olympic Peninsula.

“Dewey is such a gentle person, and a great teacher,” Anderson said.

“He helps people rise to a higher level,” as musicians and singers.

“We have a good time. That's the best part,” Ehling said this week.

He just had added another player to the orchestra: a violist from Portland, Ore., who was visiting family here.

Each year, Handel with Care features soloists, and this time Linda Grubb of Sequim as well as brothers Dalton and Taylor Ackley will lend their voices.

Grubb will offer “Come Unto Him,” one of the oratorio's airs, or songs.

Dalton Ackley, a Sequim High School alumnus now studying at Adelphi University in Long Island, N.Y., will sing of “The People Who Waited in Darkness,” and his older brother Taylor, an Adelphi graduate who now composes and teaches music in Sequim, will sing “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.”

Handel with Care is not about singing the entire “Messiah,” Ehling added.

The 271-year-old oratorio runs about three hours. Since he's quite familiar with Handel's work, Ehling selects passages, varying them from year to year.

Ehling received the formal aspect of his musical education at Kansas' Bethany College, graduating in 1950.

“The college has been doing the 'Messiah' since 1881,” when it was just 140 years old, he said.

“All four years I was there, we did the complete 'Messiah' on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. So we prepared for it from January to Easter.”

For his first two years at Bethany, Ehling was a singer in the choir; the other two years he was an oboist in the orchestra.

Sixty-two years hence, Handel's masterwork feels “very comfortable.

“It's just fun for me,” Ehling said. “The fun is introducing it to people who haven't had the experience.

“Just come over and sing along. Even the experienced people don't get all the notes,” Ehling added. “Come and get caught up in the spirit of it.”

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 27. 2012 10:34PM
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