The Handel Choir of Baltimore (= HCB) is an oratorio society of auditioned singers, currently 46, with a seventy-year history of performing choral and choral-orchestral repertory. In 1934 a group of singers joined with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to perform Mendelssohn’s Elijah for a national music teachers’ convention. The following year, Katherine Luke, Chairwoman of the 1934 Baltimore National Music Week Committee, again gathered the singers together and founded the Handel Choir of Baltimore. For its first concert, the Handel Choir performed Messiah composed by George Frideric Händel, beginning an annual tradition which continues uninterrupted to this day. The HCB was the first ensemble in Maryland open to all qualified members of the community.
The HCB regularly presents 8 to 10 subscription concerts during a concert season and makes many public service appearances with the ensembles ranging in size from 14 to 100 musicians. These concerts include a cappella singing, annual performances of Händel's Messiah, music of Bach, Mendelssohn, Mozart and all of the other Händel oratorios. The HCB also takes pride in presenting a wide range of music, from classical to modern compositions, and performing in venues throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. The HCB's annual "Music for a Great Space" concert also features the polychoral music of Gabrieli for both brass and choir(s). Intending to reach a broad audience base, the HCB performs in a venues throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area, including concert halls, churches, chapels, synagogues. and for civic engagements and retirement centers.
Since 1977, The HCB was under the musical direction of T. Herbert Dimmock. Under his leadership, the choir has experienced dramatic artistic growth, presenting outstanding performances of the masterpieces of the choral repertoire throughout the Baltimore region.
With the arrival in 2004 of artistic director & conductor Melinda O'Neal , the HCB re-focussed its perspective to include performance of baroque, classical and early-romantic music with an orchestra of historic instruments. The inauguration of the Handel Choir Period Instrument Orchestra has offered the Choir and it's audiences a taste of how the music may well have sounded at the time of its first performances. Today the music can be heard afresh––phrasing, articulation, balances, text pronunciation and tempos are delivered quite differently from the fashions audiences have become accustomed to over recent decades. This new, but old, perspective on how the choral-orchestral music of Bach, Händel, Mozart and others sounded, is offered to Baltimore audiences exclusively by the HCB. While the Choir remains committed to performing in a variety of historical styles and genres, the organization performs 19th -21st -century music as well. Repertoire during this concert season includes music of Fauré, Leonard Bernstein, Francis Poulenc and Berlioz. A commissioning project is underway for a new work to celebrate the HCB's 75th anniversary in 2010, and plans are now being made for a larger, collaborative performance project in spring 2007.
The Handel Choir also has an extensive educational outreach program in area schools. In a typical year the choir will sponsor 300 classes, many field trips and bring hundreds of young students to its concerts. Members of the choir come from all parts of the greater Baltimore, Maryland community. Music teachers, homemakers, lawyers, physicians, computer programmers, graduate students, and non-profit developers are just a few of the many professions brought together through music in the choir. In the past five years, the HCB organization has expanded to include an active sixty-voice Handel Children’s Choir and an educational outreach program for inner city middle school girls.