Beginning March 11, 2011 Seattle will host more than 2 dozen concerts and recitals of music by Handel and his contemporaries. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra opens the festival with conductor Nicholas McGegan and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. The festival ends with Pacific Musicworks and Tudor Choir’s performance of Esther, Boston Early Music Festival’s production of Acis and Galatea, and Seattle Baroque Orchestra.

Here is the master schedule of festival events. You can see more by searching for individual events under “Festival Events” in the left-hand column.

Fri-Sat, Mar 11-12, 8 pm, Benaroya Hall: Seattle Symphony Orchestra: Songs of Cleopatra: Nicholas McGegan conductor, Isabel Bayrakdarian soprano: music inspired by the famous — and infamous — Queen of the Nile. Please join us in the lobby for the Opening Festivities of the American Handel Festival, hosted by the Seattle Symphony! Wolfgang Puck Catering wine tasting events before each concert from 6:30 to 7:45pm.

Sat-Sun, Mar 12-13: Gallery Concerts, Queen Anne Christian Church, 1316 3rd Avenue, W. (corner 3rd Ave. W and W. Lee on Queen Anne Hill): Soprano Julianne Baird sings the rip-roaring repertoire that Handel tailored for the magnificent heroines of his operas and oratorios. With Tekla Cunningham, violin; Margriet Tindemans, viola da gamba; and Jillon Stoppels Dupree, harpsichord.

Sun, Mar 13, 3 pm: Orchestra Seattle: Chamber Music, First Free Methodist Church, 3200 third Ave W, Seattle 98119: Handel: Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 6, No. 2 and Mozart: Serenade No. 12 in C Minor, K. 388

Mon, Mar 14, 7:30 pm: UW School of Music: Handel and Fielding: Italian opera and English song. UW Collegium Musicum, directed by JoAnn Taricani

Wed, Mar. 16, Noon & 7:30 pm: Trinity Parish Church: The Man in the Mirror, by Ben Bernstein, a brilliant, funny and poignant original one-act opera for tenor, harpsichord, cello and recorded voices by Ben Bernstein, performed by Seattle’s own inimitable tenor, Ross Hauck. In preparing for a performance of Handel’s Messiah, the tenor dresses in full tie and tails and warms up, beset by the voices in his head. At first they’re supportive, but they gradually devolve into ridiculous self-doubt. In the end, he performs beautifully, of course — a rare glimpse into what really happens before performers go on stage.

Thurs, Mar 17, 2 pm: The Frye Museum: The Man in the Mirror, by Ben Bernstein, sung by Ross Hauck

Fri, Mar 18, 7:30 pm: Our Lady of Fatima Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra, Matthew Loucks, Artistic and Musical Director: Evening Prayer, featuring the music of G.F. Handel composed for the Catholic Church with a special emphasis on music composed/performed for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the church of St. Maria de Monte Santo (1707).

Fri, Mar 18, 9:30 pm: Sorrento Hotel: Late-night performance: The Man in the Mirror, by Ben Bernstein, sung by Ross Hauck; this is a fund-raiser for the festival, includes performance, wine, dessert, and good company. $50

Sat, Mar 19, 2-3:30 pm: Nave of St. James Cathedral: Seattle Recorder Society and Moss Bay Recorder Society,conducted by Peter Seibert: Handel Play-In, an opportunity to read through Handelʼs ever-popular Water Music, made up of three suites totaling 22 movements, including a newly orchestrated movement derived from Handel’s sketches, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Both works are arranged to fit the ranges and timbres of recorders and related instruments. Come prepared to enjoy playing through these marvelous works. FREE! Players of recorders, viols, baroque flutes and related instruments should bring an instrument (pitch A=440) and a music stand. Parts will be provided.

Sat-Sun, Mar. 19-20, 8 pm: Seattle Pro Musica: Dixit Dominus and Coronation Anthems conducted by Karen P. Thomas; works by Handel for chorus, orchestra and soloists in the glorious acoustic of St. James Cathedral. The concert features Handel’s Dixit Dominus — a brilliant work from his Italian period, filled with vocal virtuosity and resplendent color. Also included are his Utrecht Jubilate Deo and Chandos Anthem #8: O come let us sing.

Sun, Mar 20, 2 pm: St. Mark’s Cathedral: Gakyung Chung and Heidi Kim, sopranos; J. Melvin Butler and Alan DePuy, organists: Handel: Organ Concerti, Op. 4, Nos. 5 and 6 and Two Italian Duets

Sun, Mar 20, 3 pm: Early Music Guild: Bach’s St. John Passion. Portland Baroque Orchestra (PBO) performs Seattle’s first period performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion. Monica Huggett will direct PBO with choral support from Cappella Romana and vocal soloists from Montreal’s Les Voix Baroques, whose recent recording (Carissimi Oratorios, February 2010) was lauded as “brilliant” and “sensitively sung” by the Toronto Star. Vocal soloists include Charles Daniels, Shannon Mercer, Matthew White, Jacques Olivier Chartier, Joshua Hopkins, and Tyler Duncan. Preconcert lecture at 2 pm

Mon, Mar 21, 7:30 pm, Blessed Sacrament Church, 5049 9th Avenue NE in Seattle’s U District: Concert Spirituel: A Handel Celebration for Bach’s Birthday: Soprano Linda Tsatsanis, Baroque flutist Jeffrey Cohan, Baroque cellist Nathan Whittaker and harpsichordist Lisa Lewis perform a Handel and Bach extravaganza for Bach’s birthday… followed by Bach’s birthday cake! Dedicated to George Shangrow.

Wed, Mar 23, 12:10 pm: Organ Concert, Martin Olson and Jo Bai, donation

Wed, Mar 23, 2 pm: Short Course on Handel

Mar 24-27, St. James Cathedral Pastoral Outreach Center: American Handel Society Conference: three days of papers, lectures, research, lively discussions, and great food with leading international Handel scholars.

Thurs. Mar. 24, 10 am: Seattle Early Dance: lecture-demo on the dances performed at court and in the theater during Handel’s lifetime, with Artistic Director Anna Mansbridge

Thurs, Mar 24, 6-8 pm, Town Hall: Opening reception for final weekend, includes music by baroque harpist Maxine Eilander, whose CD Handel’s Harp was released in Aug. 2009. Performance at 6:30 pm. More than 200 visitors from around the country and Europe will be coming to Seattle for the American Handel Festival. This reception gives musicians, scholars, visitors, and Seattle audience members a chance to meet and mingle. This is a ticketed event; we will be serving food and wine!

Fri-Sat, Mar 25-26: Western Early Keyboard Association Conference: Handel at the Keyboard, St. Mark’s Episcopal and Trinity Parish: performances, masterclasses, lecture-demos for harpsichordists and organists. For schedule, information, and registration click here. Performances include Handel Organ Concerti, Violin Sonatas, and a harpsichord master class with Byron Schenkman.

Fri, Mar 25, Noon, Trinity Parish Church: Janet See, Baroque flute, with Margriet Tindemans, viola da gamba, and Kraig Scott, harpsichord: Handel Sonatas for flute and basso continuo, Handel harpsichord solo, and an arrangement of Handel’s beautiful B Minor Trio Sonata.

Fri, Mar 25, 7 pm, Town Hall: Howard Serwer Memorial Lecture by David Hurley, Pittsburg State Univ., Pittsburg KS: Once More with Feeling: Da Capo Patterns in Handel’s Oratorios

Fri, Mar 25, 8 pm, Town Hall: Handel: Acis and Galatea: the 1718 chamber version of Handel’s beloved pastoral opera by the Boston Early Music Festival; stage direction by Gilbert Blin, musical direction by Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs. Only one Seattle performance!. A courtly entertainment about the simplicity of rural life, Acis and Galatea depicts the love affair between the nymph Galatea and the shepherd Acis, who must endure a long separation. When the two at long last find each other, their reunion is thwarted by the giant Polyphemus, who is himself in love with Galatea. Polyphemus kills Acis with a large rock, and as Galatea laments the loss of her lover, she uses her divine powers to transform Acis into an everlasting fountain. An exquisite staged performance. See a video montage of this production!

Sat, Mar 26, Noon, Plymouth Congregational Church: Concert by Handel Chorus workshop: 100 adult singers perform Handel choruses with full orchestra, directed by James Savage, Karen P. Thomas, and Donald Burrows.

Sat, Mar 26, 1 pm, Poncho Concert Hall, Cornish College of the Arts: Baroque Woodwind Master Class: five of the finest baroque wind players — Janet See, flute; Gonzalo Ruiz, oboe; R.J. Kelley, horn; Danny Bond, bassoon; and Kris Kwapis, trumpet –emonstrate some of the finer points of baroque performance practices and coach aspiring early music students in this special master class. FREE

Sat, Mar 26, 1:30 pm: Handel’s Continuo with Tekla Cunningham, violin; Jillon Stoppels Dupree, harpsichord

Sat, Mar 26, 7 pm: Pre-concert lecture by John Roberts, UC Berkeley

Sat, Mar 26, 8 pm, St. James Cathedral: Handel: the Oratorio Esther from 1720 by Pacific Musicworks and the Tudor Choir (Doug Fullington, director), conducted by Stephen Stubbs: the first performance of this version of the oratorio since Handel’s time (one performance only!); soloists include Shannon Mercer, Ross Hauck, Charles Robert Stephens, Zachary Wilder, Catherine Webster and Matthew White.

Sun, Mar 27, 3 pm, Town Hall: Seattle Baroque Orchestra, led by Ingrid Matthews: Handel’s Grand Concertos: From its debut and most recent recordings to performances of Handel’s Messiah played “exceedingly well” (R.M. Campbell, Seattle Post-Intelligencer) with the Tudor Choir, Handel has always been a staple of the repertory for Seattle Baroque Orchestra. SBO brings to the American Handel Festival a concert devoted entirely to great instrumental works by the beloved master, including sonatas and concertos for oboes, violins, harpsichord, strings and continuo.