Messiah is an oratorio that was offered as an Easter offering by George F. Handel at the Music Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. I’ve unexpectedly attended the performance last Sunday, and it impressed me a lot.
The Messiah was performed by the Sydney University Graduate Choir under the leadership of Christopher Bowen, the music director; and was deemed to be an ironic work. This paper will write an account of the premiere of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin by adopting a perspective of one of the soprano soloist, Anita Kyle. Although the choral performance was done in the 18th century, it remains a significant composition in history.
To begin with, Messiah has a long performance history, and it has become a common practice among Christians. According to Anita Kyle, it has become a tradition that should be performed during Christmas day that is entrenched with decorating and hanging flowers. The music is done in churches and at concert halls with or without the audience’s participation. I would argue that Messiah was not exclusively intended to be Christmas music since it received its premiere on April 13, 1742, during the Easter holiday and in a secular context which was a concert hall in Dublin. The inspiration to write and present Messiah came from Charles Jennens who was a scholar and a devout evangelical Christian who was concerned with irreligious practices. He compiled and edited materials from the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible about Christian doctrine concerning the coming of the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament. Charles Jennens approached his friend Friedrich Handel to compose an oratorio in a secular setting performance before Easter. On my account, Messiah was targeting the people who had come to the theatre and not a church audience. It is possible that Handel wanted to remind them of their faith and the fate of ignoring the Christian ways.
Despite the work being inspired by someone else, Handel attempted to write music that would be inspirational and timeless in the history of concert performance. However, it is unfortunate to note that Messiah gained popularity in the 1750s. The composing of the music was only done in twenty-four days, which is why his followers hold him in high esteem. By some, he is considered the greatest composer to have ever lived. Charles Jennens designed the shrewd compression of biblical writings referring to the Savior of Humanity. Consequently, he did not get any position in the society due to his failure to accept the vow to pledging his loyalty to the Dynasty of Hanover. Jennens also declined to be part of Stuart’s doctrine. In 1941, Jennens wrote his friend Edward Holds worth to inform him that Handel had promised not to work on anything that winter and that he had to persuade him to come up with a different assortment of biblical text he had made for him and perform it according to his interests during the week of Lent. According to the performance, Handel had applied his skills and abilities, and this made the composition excel all his previous ones, with the theme Messiah exceling the rest of the topics. Jennens was a champion of Handel’s music, and he ordered the music to be copied and printed for the whole world to access it.
Furthermore, Charles Jensen’s intention for Messiah was to act as a reminder to Christians of their faith as a result of the increased community of non-believers. It is hard to understand and contemplate the perception of religion from the perspective of Handel and Christianity as a whole. However, admirable legends of his stature lamenting in relation to the score of the Liberator did not auger well. It took him 24 days to come with the composition; this swiftness in his work can be compared to Handel’s rapidity in regular life and not linked to divine inspiration. After he had completed his work, he left for Ireland to perform it in Dublin. Jennens had heard about his great inspiration and the fame of Messiah in London, and he wondered why he never showed it there. A lot is not known about his invitation and acceptance to play in Ireland. He had also played two genres in London, and it never attracted the audiences, and he thought of abandoning Italian theatre use to adopt English works. It seems that the invitation to Ireland made Handel escape the pressures from London and be able to set up his position. He pointed it clear so as to protect his views and ideas in his performance. This first production has been adopted by many countries in the world that do the chorus during Christmas celebrations. You know, I feel that I also need faith and possibly, religion. And I started to read about it and I’ve found a good website with christian books reviews.
Besides, Handel performance for messiah raised high expectations to the audience. This was evident with the rehearsal that attracted and excited newspapers which hyped the piece arguing that oratorio was so far a piece that surpass anything that had ever Staged performance in a similar way. The predicted number of attendants was 600, but more 700 persons streamed in. The advertisement stated that women should not come with hoops while the men were to leave their swords so as to save on space. The debut of Messiah experienced a major accomplishment. Handel’s work gained favour from the judges who concluded that it was a good performance. Words would not be sufficient in expressing the superb amusement it offered to the cheerful audience. On the other hand, many people thought it was sacrilegious. The topic of the oratorio was sacred that read to God alone the glory and it being performed during Easter; that would make the audience interpret the music as devout. It was also presented under secular setting in a concert hall. The performance would be deemed religious if it would be performed in a church despite its composure being from the Bible and the Book of Prayer. However, it still reached the intended audience, and Handel accomplished his purpose of making a life changing the piece of work that would change Ireland.
The oratorio aroused moral outrage from some. For example, a satirist known as John Arbuthnot wrote a pamphlet to criticize the two soprano women who came to blows on the stage. It was evident that there was the absurdity of London’s opera and classical composers, and Handel was no different. Also, the oratorio attracted outrage from the bishop of London upon its performance by the cathedral singers. It is evident that many people objected the integration of secular and religious worlds especially by using theatres and concert halls for performance. Jonathan Swift also threatened to forbid singers to participate in the Messiah performance. Handel wanted to defuse and try to remove some of the controversies. He later went to perform and work in Dublin instead of London. The Messiah is not a Christmas piece. It outlined the life of Jesus up to resurrection.
It is evident that there is no definitive version for the performance. Many thinkers and audience find it hard to guess the original intentions of the composer. This is because Handel wrote some parts of oratorio to fit his soloists’ abilities. Messiah has continued to change with the participants and the groups that perform it. For example, Mozart re-orchestrated Messiah in 1789 and gave it the current classical standards vocals. He wrote alterations to make an improvement to the work of Handel. The piece of work was influential, and the mode of performance moved the audience who became part of the vast work of Handel. For example, King George was moved by the “Hallelujah” chorus of the Messiah during the London premiere, and he rose to his feet that made the audience stand too. This act was to honor the king because none would continue sitting when the king stood. This also caused a lot of debate to the participants and many critics of the music who think that the newspapers might have exaggerated the matter.
Messiah stands in history among the greatest performances that were ever done. Being a musical part done at holiday times, it attracts a lot of people to schedule it to be performed over Christmas time though it was originally staged during Easter. It was originally purposed to remind people of the way they had fallen and to help them realize the fate of their sins. The singers and the soloists propel the work with high emotional impact and uplifting messages that move the crowd. This music has been performed on various occasions including the annual London Handel Festival to appreciate his great work. His contribution to the London operas was great, and he instilled morals to the audience.