Handel’s Messiah is an annual rite of passage to mark the start of the Christmas season, and it has become an beloved annual tradition for those who love the holidays.
Would you believe that Handel’s Messiah was actually intended as an Easter concert? The oratorio debuted April 13, 1742, at Musick Hall in Dublin, and the audience reached about 700 people with women foregoing their hoop skirts to make room “for more company,” according to this Smithsonian Magazine article.
Now, of course, Messiah is a fixture of the Christmas season. Woe to the concert hall in the United States or Britain that fails to schedule the piece around the holiday, when, as well, CD sales and Web downloads of the oratorio soar. For many amateur choirs, the work is the heart of their repertoire and the high point of the year. In most of Handel’s oratorios, the soloists dominate and the choir sings only brief choruses. But in Messiah, says Laurence Cummings, director of the London Handel Orchestra, “the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages.”
The article goes on to say:
It took time for Messiah to find its niche as a Christmas favorite. “There is so much fine Easter music—Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, most especially—and so little great sacral music written for Christmas,” says Cummings. “But the whole first part of Messiah is about the birth of Christ.” By the early 19th century, performances of Messiah had become an even stronger Yuletide tradition in the United States than in Britain.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to listen and enjoy as the Durango Choral Society and the San Juan Symphony perform selections from Handel’s most-enduring work. Tickets for the Durango performance are available here.