The “Messiah” and its “Hallelujah” chorus are forever linked to the Christmas season. Written by George Frideric Handel in 1741, and first performed in Dublin, Ireland in 1742, this oratorio in English became Handel’s masterpiece in choral music.
Handel, a Lutheran, was born in Halle, Germany in the southern region of Saxony. He studied music in Germany, Italy, and England. He moved permanently to London in 1712 where he became famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. But he is most famous today for his “Messiah” oratorio.
This Christmas season as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, many of us will sing the Hallelujah chorus, or listen to recordings of it. It is important to remember that Handel was a devout Christian who knew his Scriptures well. Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach, also a Lutheran who knew his scriptures well, we see Handel’s glimpse of heaven after writing the Hallelujah Chorus. He reportedly told his servant “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of Angels.”
During the first London performance of Handel’s Messiah, King George II stood up as the Hallelujah chorus kicked in. After that, it became traditional for audiences to stand for this famous chorus.
Handel suffered anxiety and depression, and he also suffered a series of strokes and eventually went blind. In spite of these set-backs he gave concerts for the benefit of the Foundation Hospital in London for the homeless, poor, destitute, and ill. At his death he gave much of his wealth to the hospital.
He was held in high esteem among composers of his day and in later generations. Bach attempted, unsuccessfully, to meet Handel while he was visiting Halle. Mozart is reputed to have said of him, “Handel understands affect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt.” Beethoven said of Handel, “he was the master of us all, the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.”
If you get the chance to attend a Messiah sing-along or Hallelujah chorus mass choir this Christmas, think about the gift of Jesus given to us. Then reflect on the verses from Revelation (Rev. 11:15) that inspired Handel to write, “ the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Hallelujah Chorus)
Here are three examples of the Hallelujah Chorus in different settings. Simply copy each URL into a search engine, such as Goggle, and sit back and enjoy:
Also, from the Messiah: “For Unto Us A Child Is Born,”
Merry Christmas to you all.
One Minute is written by Rev. Ron Rehrer, Counselor for Church Workers; phone 949.433.5182 and email firstname.lastname@example.org