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Handel and the House of Homosexual Culture. Words by Fiona Haliday.

I must admit I’ve never been an out and out fan of the baroque. You say baroque and I see great aunts in fur wafting talcum powder. You say Handel and I see those who use ‘antiquing’ as a verb. There is, of course, beauty in Bach’s effervescing eddies. One can lose oneself in the great ormulu landscapes of Vivaldi and Pachabel and Scarlatti. But for me, the baroque is as soft and slippery and inane as Bambi slow cooked in baby oil. But to Handel I went. Reluctantly. Expected 20 Cantatas for the Happy Harpsichord.

You see, 2009 is the Handel homecoming. It’s the 250th anniversary of his death and the grumpy German’s been rolled out like he’s Elton John. Oratorical and tiddle de deums are all the rage. (Though I recommend a severe doze of Arvo Part’s Miserere to combat the Messiah syndrome.)

The Proms were packed out given Harry Christophers and the 16’s reputation and they’ve been flying around the concert circuit all year on gilded wings. They were polished to perfection so much so the performance seemed almost Teflon-coated, complete with Christophers’ odd manner of conducting ahead of the beat. I could have done with a few more ‘ding dong’ moments. One minute the Queen of Sheba had landed with a suitable thud and the next a slightly under the weather Zadok the Priest and then we were in the pub before I’d even broken a bead of sweat or jotted a word. (I was standing in the pit with fellow promming passers) A bit of operatic bawd, coronation and devotional flew by in between. It was a full and relatively seasoned account of the grumpy Deutschman’s astonishing range and great to hear this unusual cache.

The soprano, Carolyn Samson was all lithesome coloratura and had the audience eating out of her hand during ‘Myself I shall Adore’. The organ concerto was great, though the period organ has all the dynamic range of a toaster and can sound a little lumpen compared to the glistening textures of the singers and orchestra. Being somewhat tin-eared, I like sperm-whale sized music. The more deafeningly over-orchestrated the better - which is why we escaped into a pint of Stella before Philip Glass came along with his latest creation - a Toltec-inspired audio Esperanto meets laxative for the ear drums.

Actually I did baroque and burlesque this week. During a perfomance by the House of Homosexual Culture I saw a lady dressed in condoms singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’ at the Royal Festival Hall accompanied by a muscled pianist who looked like an Eastern European trapeze artist. There was a large black drag artist by the name of Le Gateau Chocolat in several acres of sequins singing a slave spiritual with a huge voice that made the Queen of Sheba sound like Minnie mouse. It was beautifully executed and quite the highlight of my week. I like to think that Handel would have liked it, given that he is rumoured to have been something of an Orpheus and was supposed to have traveled in circles that well, my talcumed Great Aunt would have frowned upon. The whole thing ended in a conga line and me trying to deflect a lunging barrister over Waterloo bridge. It was all very baroque and roll.

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