Comfort Ye My People
|Glacier Peak, Washington|
Georg Friedrich Händel (pronounce it HEN-del) was born in Halle, Germany in 1685. He studied under Italian Baroque masters Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. His works follow the Italian style. He became a naturalized citizen of Great Britain, changed his name to George Frideric Handel and became court musician to King George I. He is thus described as a German who wrote Italian music for the English. Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey.
|Mount Rainier, Washington|
Please don't call it "The Messiah." The correct title is Messiah with no "the."
It is quintessentially Baroque, and a pure example of the period's choral music. It sounds like Christmas music should sound. This apparent familiarity is due to the fact that many favorite carols come from this era. Examples are "Joy to the World," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." Handel actually composed the music that would become "Joy to the World." In Messiah, you will hear parts of it in "Comfort ye my people" and "Lift up your heads."
|Mount Shuksan, Washington|
The texts also reveal the beauty, cadence and poetry of the King James translation and how easily it is set to music. It is the Elizabethan English of Shakespeare. The words are as beautiful as the music.
|Cascade Pass, Washington|
Generally, you can satisfy me by not playing the sections too slowly. It is a mistake to assume that sacred music must be sanctimonious and somber. "And he shall purify," "His yoke is easy," "All we like sheep" and "Let us break their bonds" are real foot-tappers. Messiah is a work of joy, not melancholy.
So, you think this music is stuffy and old-fashioned? What other classical work motivates sing-alongs where thousands gather in arenas to live this great work first hand? Wouldn't Handel be pleased to know this? In what other concert will the audience rise to their feet spontaneously for a certain anthem?
Now, watch what happens in a Philadelphia shopping center:
When Beethoven was on his deathbed, he is reputed to have said that if a physician could help him, "his name shall be called wonderful." If true, even at his death, he was quoting from Messiah. It is our human nature to be moved and inspired by beautiful things. Every person should try to attend at least one live performance of Messiah in their lifetimes. "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstop-ped." Wishing comfort and joy to everyone this season.
Photos: Walter Siegmund, Cullen328, Siradia, Daniel Hershman
Adapted from an article I posted last year at Windows Live Spaces.