Earlham Assistant Professor of Music Bill Culverhouse conducts a performance of "Messiah" in Jordan earlier this month.
EC professor brings 'Messiah' with an Arabian flair to Jordanian audiences
June 17, 2014
Earlham College Assistant Professor of Music Bill Culverhouse recently brought an Arabian flair to “Messiah,” the classic western oratorio written by George Frederic Handel in 1741.
Earlier this month, Culverhouse twice conducted what he considers to be the most complete version of the celebrated composition ever performed in Jordan. Both performances featured the Dozan wa Awtar Singers, the nation’s leading choir, and the Amman Symphony Orchestra, among other leading performers.
“This is not the first time that portions of ‘Messiah’ have been performed in Jordan, but it is the most complete performance to date with the largest choir and most complete orchestra,” Culverhouse says. “Jordan is a majority Muslim country, and has only recently begun to develop a larger audience for western classical music.”
About 1,000 people, including Jordanian royalty and ambassadors from the embassies of the United States, France and Germany, attended the shows at the Greek Catholic Cathedral of St. George in Amman.
“The piece has earned a place in music history for many reasons, but one of the things I find so compelling about it is its emotional range,” Culverhouse says about ‘Messiah.’ “There are huge and beautiful emotional contrasts within this piece. I think these emotional contrasts allow the music to be accessible and appealing to multi-faith audiences.”
The idea for the performances came out of the longstanding relationship between Culverhouse and Shireen Abu Khader, the founder and principal conductor of Dozan wa Awtar.
“We began discussing ‘Messiah’ last spring as an opportunity to expand Dozan’s repertoire and musical capabilities,” Culverhouse says. "We also saw the piece as a way of attracting a large audience to a piece of western classical music that has at least one very familiar section, the famed ‘Hallelujah chorus.’”
Culverhouse directs the choral music program at Earlham and teaches a variety of courses in music history. An active performer, conductor and composer, Culverhouse has previously conducted “Messiah” at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., (2003) and the Maryland Chorus (2006).
Culverhouse has a special interest in music of the Middle East, having collaborated with students on research projects on various musical styles and genres in the Arab world and supervised student research projects at the American Center for Oriental Research, also in Amman.
For more information about the performances, visit http://dozanwaawtar.com/content/handels-messiah.