During the A-to-Z challenge, I discussed tempering, which is the art of tuning each note on the scale.
I'm a member of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, and serve on its board. Every year since 1879, we've performed Händel's Messiah. Given the piece premiered in 1742, modern equal tempering would neither have been an option nor would it have sounded pleasing.
In a conversation yesterday with Dr. Stephen Alltop, our music director, I asked him what tuning we use. He replied:
We use an unequal temperament called Bach-Barnes. Messiah keys range from four sharps to four flats so I tweak the temperament to sound as good as possible in that range of harmonies.
So that's interesting. We perform an 18th-century work with 20th-century instruments using 21st-century tuning.
(We perform it next on December 15th and 16th at Harris Theater in Chicago.)