Christmas or Easter? Which One Works for Handel’s Messiah

Christmas or Easter? Which One Works for Handel’s Messiah

Christmas or Easter? Which One Works for Handel’s Messiah

Handel’s Messiah is a fixture of the Christmas season. According to the Smithsonian institute, “For many amateur choirs, the work is the heart of their repertoire and the high point of the year. In most of Handel’s oratorios, the soloists dominate and the choir sings only brief choruses. But in Messiah, says Laurence Cummings, director of the London Handel Orchestra, “the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages.”

It’s interesting to note George Frideric Handel’s Messiah was originally an Easter offering, first performed at Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742.  Imagine 700 in the audience, as they were crammed into tight quarters, the ladies cooperated with requests of the management to wear dresses “without hoops” to make “room for more company.” The audience was entranced from the opening tenor and solemn string overture with the opening line, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-glorious-history-of-handels-messiah-148168540/

The full program of Handel’s Messiah usually takes about three hours to perform, was written in July and August of 1741 and took a mere eighteen days. Some of Handel’s earlier works were incorporated into The Messiah: the choruses “And He Shall Purify,” “For Unto Us a Child is Born” and “His Yoke is Easy” were all borrowed from short Italian love arias he had composed about twenty years earlier.

Handel was one of the most famous men in England during his lifetime. Baroque composer George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany, in 1685. In 1705 he made his debut as an opera composer with Almira. He produced several operas with the Royal Academy of Music in England before forming the New Royal Academy of Music in 1727. When Italian operas fell out of fashion, he started composing oratorios, including his most famous, Messiah. Handel died in London, England, in 1759.

https://www.biography.com/people/george-handel-9327378

It is surprising that details of Handel’s spiritual, personal and private life are vague. Handel was open about the emotion he felt as he composed the Hallelujah Chorus.

The Messiah tells the story of Jesus, almost all of the words were taken from the Old Testament, a retelling of Jesus’ life using prophetic texts. The Old Testament texts were compiled by Charles Jennens, using them to fight a battle with the Deist religious sect, who denied the reality of Biblical prophecy. Jennens wanted to prove that the story of Jesus was accurately predicted in the Old Testament. For example, the aria, “He was despised, and rejected of men,” is from Isaiah 53:3,”a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering,” written 700 years before Jesus was born.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/handel-s-messiah-6-surprising-facts-1.3351122

As I write this blog, I am listening to the London Philharmonic Orchestra Handel’s Messiah. If this is a new concept for you, I pray this year, your Christmas memories, like mine include reciting, listening and singing The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

The Hallelujah Chorus Lyrics

https://genius.com/George-frideric-handel-the-messiah-hallelujah-lyrics

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah

For the lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
For the lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
For the lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
(For the lord God omnipotent reigneth)
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah

For the lord God omnipotent reigneth
(Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah)
Hallelujah

The kingdom of this world;
Is become
The kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ
And of His Christ

And He shall reign for ever and ever
And he shall reign forever and ever
And he shall reign forever and ever

 


And he shall reign forever and ever

King of kings forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
And lord of lords forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
King of kings forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
And lord of lords forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
King of kings forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah
And lord of lords
King of kings and lord of lords

And he shall reign
And he shall reign
And he shall reign
He shall reign
And he shall reign forever and ever

King of kings forever and ever
And lord of lords hallelujah hallelujah
And he shall reign forever and ever

King of kings and lord of lords
King of kings and lord of lords
And he shall reign forever and ever
Forever and ever and ever and ever
(King of kings and lord of lords)


Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah

Handel’s Messiah The London Philharmonic Orchestra