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The Messiah

posted Dec 16, 2013, 9:36 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Dec 16, 2013, 9:37 AM ]
Composed by George Frideric Handel, this English-language oratorio has a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens.   Like opera, an oratorio uses a choir, soloists and orchestra.  However, it’s usually not staged, and the characters don’t interact.  And while opera plots deal with history or mythology, oratorios usually have sacred topics . In The Messiah, Part I begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation of the nativity to the shepherds, the only "scene" taken from the Gospels. Part II concentrates on the Passion and Part III covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ's glorification in Heaven.

It premiered in Dublin in April, 1742 and received its London premiere eleven months later.   After an initially modest reception, its popularity gained, eventually becoming one of the most frequently performed choral works.   I’ll be singing Part I as the bass soloist with the Diocesan Vicariate Choir on Friday, December 13th at 7:30pm at Resurrection-Ascension Church in Rego Park.  Tickets at the door are $15; $10 for kids. 

So why do people stand for the “Hallelujah” chorus?  Theories abound, though some scholars now believe that since The Messiah was originally performed at Easter, King George II requested a performance of just Part I for his Christmas party.   At its conclusion he stood up, not realizing Handel had prepared the “Hallelujah” chorus as an encore.  Too embarrassed to sit down, he remained standing.  And when the king stands, everyone stands…