Voices from Sequim and beyond join for Handel With Care

SEQUIM — Sunday afternoon, folks got together for a little singalong. It turned into a magnificent concert and fundraiser that outdid itself.

This event, titled Handel With Care, has been happening for 10 years now in Sequim. It’s billed as a sing-it-yourself version of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah,” and draws people from across town and across the globe.

At Sequim’s Trinity United Methodist Church, they leave donations for Sequim Community Aid, the 62-year-old nonprofit that helps people in need with basics like rent and electricity.

This year, the gifts were “unbelievable,” said organizer Shirley Anderson.

“Somebody put in a check for $1,000,” others wrote checks totaling $505 and still others put $733 in cash into the donation box.

The $2,238 sum will be matched, Anderson added, by an anonymous Sequim couple who can no longer attend the concert, so a total of $4,476 will go toward Sequim Community Aid’s efforts in 2010.

Staying power

Not surprisingly, Handel’s oratorio, first performed in Dublin, Ireland, well over two centuries ago, still delivers.

Some 100 singers gathered Sunday, with a small orchestra that had rehearsed for just an hour — they had seen this famous music before, after all — before the 3 p.m. start of the concert.

Providing the help and encouragement for all comers was conductor Dewey Ehling, a seasoned facilitator of Handel With Care.

“We’re here to celebrate,” Ehling said by way of welcome, “and we’re here to have a good time.”

Then, like swimmers diving into the sea, the musicians began the overture. And as the afternoon progressed, they sewed a kind of magic carpet that carried the singers up and up, so that by intermission they were cheering for one another.

Wendy Whittemore jumped up a little, inspired by the choruses of “Wonderful counselor, the mighty God . . . the prince of peace” at the climax of the first half. She’s lived in Sequim 10 years, but had never been to this singalong.

Being surrounded by song “just feels so good,” Whittemore said.

There’s a reason

During what Ehling called “halftime,” singers and musicians sipped water, nibbled cookies and chatted about why this feels this good.

Singing sacred music together gives us a glimpse of heaven, said Linda Rohrs of Port Townsend. She and her partner, Susan Ambrosius, came for both the music and the metaphysics.

“I think Handel channeled this music directly” from above, said Ambrosius.

Singing it, “we’re all sparks of divinity,” Rohrs added.

And with Ehling’s guidance, the voices sounded thus.

He shepherded the flock with gentleness and praise, urging them to open their throats and hearts.

“I want to hear you,” Ehling said. “Even if it’s wrong, let me hear you.”

Single voices

On the way to the finale — the “Hallelujah Chorus” of course — the crowd enjoyed a few interludes, during which soloists performed.

Among them was Esther Morgan-Ellis, a 25-year-old who went from Port Angeles to Yale to earn her Ph.D. in music history. She offered what Ehling called a gem of the oratorio, “How Beautiful Are the Feet.”

“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace,” Morgan-Ellis sang.

During the grander parts, timpanist Ryan Weed beat his giant drums with a tone born of experience.

The Port Angeles High School graduate comes home to see his family and play in Handel With Care every year; this time he flew from Australia, where he’s working on his physics degree at Australia National University.

Sunday’s concert ran over its planned two hours, but no one seemed tired when it came time to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Voices, strings and booming timpani filled the sanctuary and poured out the open doors like a high Pacific wave.

Lex Morgan of Sequim, an avowed listener-not-singer, rode that wave as he has just about every year.

“Oh, my gosh. I am enraptured,” he said afterward.

“This is so free and wonderful,” Ehling told his singers and players. “We may miss a few notes,” but that’s beside the point of getting together.

To the departing crowd, the conductor had four more words: “Same time, next year.”

_______

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladaily news.com.

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