Monday Musical Moment: MMM: Tis the [Messiah] Season!
‘Tis the season for many things… frantic shopping for the best deals, Christmas colors decorating everything in town, celebrating the holidays with friends and family, the list goes on! For musicians and music lovers alike, it also means the start of the season where there are LOTS of performances of all or selections from Handel’s Baroque masterpiece MESSIAH.
For those who do not know, Messiah is an English-language oratorio (mostly sacred work with orchestra, choir, and soloists that tells a story without any staging) was composed in 1741 by native-German-turned-English composer, Georg Frederic Handel. The work is made up of three large parts that, over the course of 2.5 to 3 hours, tell the story of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection through a combination of instrumental pieces, arias by a soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, and choir.
Messiah is unique in our musical canon for several reasons, but one of them is that, mostly due to its length, the work is rarely performed in its entirety, but often certain movements are left out and even mixed around to conform to the purposes of whoever performs it. Funny enough, the Christmas portion of Messiah (Part 1) is done so often compared to the other parts that many forget that the larger work is actually an Easter story. This past weekend, there was a rare performance of 99% of Messiah performed by the Mercury Chamber Orchestra at the Wortham Center. I was able to watch some of that last night – after returning from my own performance of the Christmas portion! – and it was absolutely incredible.
Another unique feature is the giant foothold Messiah has taken in our culture overall, not just in the “music” community. Seemingly everyone, from casual fan to music enthusiast to professional musician alike, seems to have strong opinions about their favorite parts, or least favorite parts. For today’s music, I will give you my personal favorite, which comes from the Easter portion of the work, “Thou shalt break them” sung by the tenor soloist. While I understand that most people enjoy the happy, fun, and glorious moments of Messiah, I personally think that Handel writes his best music when its raging, fiery, and of course in a minor key. I also think the groove in this aria is infectious!
If you would like to hear more favorites from the Christmas portion of Messiah, make sure to come to First UMC’s annual “Christmas on the Corner” concert in the sanctuary this Sunday at 6:00pm, where our scholarship singers, Missouri City Chamber Singers, and Chancel Choir will be performing of your favorite tunes from this wonderful work.