Friday, November 26, 2010

Handel's Messiah Intro

Disclaimer:  This post will likely reveal the choir nerd inside of me.

The most well known part of Handel's Messiah is "The Hallelujah Chorus."  (One of my favorite sections occurs at 1:32-1:57 in this recording on youtube.)  Short music lesson - Messiah is an oratorio, which is like an opera (story that is all sung), but with no costumes, scenery, etc...  So, it was written to be performed in its entirety so the audience would hear the whole story Handel was communicating (all of which comes from scripture).  Especially at this time of the year, we often hear the "Hallelujah Chorus," but not the rest of it.  I'm not trying to harp on the people who only perform the Hallelujah Chorus.  However, Handel composed Messiah, brilliantly setting to music another writer's libretto (text written for music) which intertwined prophecies about the coming of the Messiah with scripture testifying about Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ultimate victory over sin and death at the end of time.  (It's written in 3 parts.)  Handel actually composed it for secular theater performance.  Back in the day, an oratorio would have been common entertainment for the upper class.  Most people that could afford it would have gone to see Handel's Messiah when it "premiered."  I've tried to think of a modern day comparison... maybe semi-similar to when Mel Gibson directed Passion of the Christ.  This movie got a lot of hype, so I'd assume a lot of non-Christian people went to see it, and they heard a LOT of scripture in those 2 hours.  I'm not sure if that's the best comparison.  Anyway...

Some of the blogs I write over this holiday season will include scripture from Messiah in the order it's performed in the oratorio, so I wanted to give a little background on the piece.  (I'll use NIV, although Messiah uses King James Version.)  Regardless of whether or not you ever get to hear it performed all the way through (which I highly recommend, even if opera isn't really your thing), the scripture is true.  The message is true.  More than a beautiful work of art, Messiah testifies to God's grace and love for the people He created.  From the beginning of time, God told us a Savior was coming.  The Savior came, fulfilling every prophecy made about Him.  He lived a sinless life on earth, died on the cross bearing the weight of the sin of the world, and rose from the grave conquering death!  He promises to come back and defeat Satan once and for all.  We know how the story ends - Handel knew how it ends too.  He quoted Revelation 5:12-13 at the end of Messiah, the choir singing, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!  To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!"

Anticipating Christ's return,
- Ren

p.s. If you want to see Messiah performed in Chicago, I've heard this performance is great, although I've never been.