Monday Musical Moment: “Messiah” Monday

Justin Langham   -  
Another week of Advent, another Christmas favorite!
If you caught one or both of our Christmas concerts at the church this weekend, you most likely love Christmas music as much as we do! We are lucky at First UMC to have many wonderful and dedicated musicians to help bring in the holidays with beautiful music.
One of the sections of last night’s Christmas on the Corner program was made a portion from Handel’s Messiah, sung beautifully by the chancel choir and solo soprano, Sara Cox. Many know or have sung parts of Messiah and remains one of the most popular pieces of Western art music in the world. Us musicians have Handel to thank for the boost in income every December!
Messiah, composed in 1741, belongs to a genre of music called an oratorio, which means basically that it is an un-staged work that tells a narrative. In this case, of course, the narrative is the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Many people think of Messiah as a Christmas work, but that is only the first of three parts. The text is in English and is made up of scriptural text from the King James Bible and the Coverdale Psalter, which is a version of the Psalms found with the Book of Common Prayer.
As you can imagine, there are many musical gems in this piece but one of my favorite movements, at least in the Christmas portion, is actually the very first one: the overture. Whenever I hear the opening notes, I can’t help but feel that Christmas is finally upon us. As a trumpet player, I’ve performed Messiah many times, and I’ve always loved the overture and think that is very underrated! It is written in two distinct sections, a slow, brooding section followed by a fast fugue. I’ve talked about fugues before, but essentially, they are imitative and built by using the same melody, or subject, that passes around each voice or instrument.
I hope you enjoy this thrilling recording of the overture by Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and that you will attend this Sunday’s worship service, where we will enjoy our own a little mini-Messiah!