Handel’s Messiah is a treasured part to so many people’s lives this time of year. Here are fun facts you may not know about this beautiful music:
- Handel completed the entire piece in only 24 days including a 259-page score, 20 choral numbers and more than 30 solos and instrumentals.
- NPR music commentator Miles Hoffman estimates there are a quarter of a million notes in the piece. At a little more than three weeks of 10-hour days, this means Handel wrote (on average) 15 notes a minute.
- Out of work musicians LOVE Handel’s Messiah because it employs dozens of musicians for weeks at Christmas. BUT Handel’s Messiah was not intended for Christmas. The first third is about the birth of Jesus. The second act covers the death of Jesus and the third his resurrection. As such, the piece was originally conceived for Easter.
- By the 19th century, Messiah became a tradition in December. Laurence Cummings, conductor of the London Handel Orchestra, said the Christmas performance custom came out of necessity. “There is so much fine Easter music — Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, most especially — and so little great sacral music written for Christmas.”
- Many thought Handel’s Messiah was blasphemous (particularly the title). To avert criticism, Handel first advertised the piece as “A Sacred Oratorio”. Plus, his decision to premiere the work in Dublin instead of London was in part to test the work away from harsh scrutiny of Anglican bishops. The first performance was during Lent in 1742 for a charity event to raise money for a hospital.
- The famous theologian John Wesley (co-founder of the Methodist church) was at the premiere. In his journal, he wrote “there were some parts that were affecting, but I doubt it has staying power”.
- The tradition of standing for the Hallelujah chorus was launched by King George II at the London premiere; when the King stands so does everybody else. Today, many stand during this chorus.
- George Frideric Handel was born in Germany in 1685, the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach. His father wanted him to be a lawyer.
- There is no definitive version, and the original version of Messiah is lost, as Handel edited and re-worked the music in the years following the premiere. Mozart re-orchestrated Messiah in 1789 and gave it a more modern sound. He humbly wrote than any alterations should not be seen as an effort at improvement.
- At the end of the manuscript Handel wrote the letters SDG, standing for Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory”.
We wish everyone the magic of Christmas throughout the year. Keep love in your heart, look after your neighbor, and give thanks every day! Merry, wonderful happy Christmas!
Christmas Sale – 2 bags of Cheval + 2 bars of chocolate
We’ll send you 2 bags of robust, rich, unparalleled coffee. Roasted to a velvety-smooth medium dark to reveal a cherry-chocolate, cocoa pudding-esque body.
Now add in 2 bars of chocolate — wowsa: orange crunch and peanuts covered in moringa. Eat with the coffee & notice how each influences the other.