December 24, 2022
Handel’s Messiah Jamie Baker
Nothing brings me back to a time or place faster than music. Most people reach for the classics to start their Christmas season (“White Christmas” on vinyl is popular at my house), but I usually start Advent with something a little different — Handel’s “Messiah”. Even if classical music isn’t typically on your playlist, you probably know a piece or two from this oratorio. The most famous piece is the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus.
I first learned many of the songs from “Messiah” when I was in high school choir. Part 1 tells of the coming of Jesus, starting with lyrics from Isaiah “Comfort ye…Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” The lyrics continue with more prophecy verses and then with the announcement to the shepherds in Luke. Every word in the entire 2.5 hour piece comes directly from Scripture. If you ever hear me humming under my breath during worship readings, it usually means that day’s lesson had a verse used by Handel.
During the weeks leading up to Christmas, our choir would travel to churches around neighboring cities and states to perform, mostly from Part 1, the “Christmas” part, but always ending with the “Hallelujah” chorus even though it’s an Easter piece (Olga has played it as a postlude many times at our Easter worship). We loved the new sounds of each building, from the round sanctuary at North Christian Church in Columbus to the stage at Carnegie Hall.
I will never forget the smooth notes from our guest soprano soloist singing “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,” followed by our entire choir chiming in with a loud “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.”
If you can find a live performance of ‘Messiah’ this Advent, have a listen or stream it online. It’s a great way to memorize some Bible verses and enjoy some beautiful music.