As promised, I wanted to write in more detail about Handel’s Messiah in connection with the Christmas season and the previous post about George Frideric Handel in the composers section, then I read an article that perfectly stated the things that I wanted to share, and added much more. An excerpt from it is as follows:
After all the music he had composed throughout his lifetime, Handel would eventually be known worldwide for this singular work, Messiah,largely composed in just three weeks during the late summer of 1741. Upon completing his composition, he humbly acknowledged, “God has visited me.”5 Those who feel the touch of the Holy Spirit as they experience the overpowering testimony of Handel’s Messiah would agree.
To the sponsors of the first performance of the oratorio, Handel stipulated that profits from this and all future performances of Messiah “be donated to prisoners, orphans, and the sick. I have myself been a very sick man, and am now cured,” he said. “I was a prisoner, and have been set free.”6
Following the first London performance of Messiah, a patron congratulated Handel on the excellent “entertainment.”
“My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them,” Handel humbly replied. “I wish to make them better.”7
The full article, Handel and the Gift of Messiah, by Elder Spencer J. Condie can be found here and is well worth a read.
Then today, I had a discussion with a friend about the Messiah, and he said that he didn’t know it. I sang a few bars from the Hallelujah Chorus, which of course he had heard. So, in honor of that friend, I will post a few of my favorite pieces from that Oratorio.
If you ever go to a Messiah sing-along, they are amazing! The entire Messiah can be as long as three hours, (there are 52 movements, or sections, total) and it typically is performed by an Orchestra and Soloists, and the Audience sings with the soloists on the major ensemble pieces. Here is a site that lists the movements and the text for each of the sections.
I’ll just share a few of the more familiar parts of the Oratorio –
For Unto Us a Child is Born the text comes from Isaiah 9:6 This is a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The Hallelujah Chorus the text comes from Revelation 19:6, Revelation 11:15, Revelation 19:16. This is a Flash Mob performance at the The Welland Seaway Mall, in Niagara Falls, Canada on November 13, 2010. I chose this performance because I was truly touched by the emotion of both the singers and the observers in the mall.
I Know that My Redeemer Liveth the text comes from Job 19:25-26. I searched for a video that I thought did it justice, and though this is just a live recording, I love the ethereal sound of the soprano and the way that her voice sounds with the acoustics is just lovely. It was sung by soprano Luísa Kurtz, accompanied by the UCS Orchestra on December 12, 2007, Catedral de Santa Teresa, Caxias do Sul, RS – Brazil.
(There is also an up-tempo, “pop” performance by Sister Gladys Knight. I love it because she is singing her testimony.)
Some other lovely movements from this work are:
- Comfort Ye My People
- O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion
- Glory to God in the Highest
- Worthy is the Lamb and AMEN