SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2019 7:30PM
The Mendel Center Mainstage
The greatest story ever told.
The most majestic music ever conceived.
The combined forces of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra and Southwest Michigan Symphony Chorus, along with an exceptional cast of soloists, will perform the Christmas portion of Handel’s glorious oratorio.
Experience what is sure to be a stirring holiday celebration!
CHRISTMAS SCENES FROM MESSIAH, Handel
As with Mozart’s Requiem, a body of myth and legend has built up around Messiah and the circumstances of its composition. The reality is fairly straightforward: Italian opera, Handel’s principal source of income since his arrival in England in 1711, had run its course in public favor by the 1730’s. The composer therefore transitioned to vernacular oratorio, a genre he had experimented with previously while living in Rome under a Papal ban on opera productions. Success with Esther, his first such venture in English, led to more compositions in the same vein, including the present work, which was premiered in Dublin in 1742.
The manuscript, 259 handwritten pages, was completed between August 22 and 14 September, 1741. From the modern perspective this seems a truly prodigious feat, but, amazingly, was not an atypical speed of output for the composer, who was used to writing under the unforgiving deadlines of the opera season schedule. The composition includes several numbers (including the well-known “O Death, Where is Thy Sting” and “All We Like Sheep”) whose music is reworked from previous compositions.
The libretto was conceived by Charles Jennens, an independently wealthy literary dilettante who had befriended and financially assisted Handel since the mid-1720’s. Using a combination of excerpts from the King James Bible, and from Psalms contained in the Book of Common Prayer, he outlines traditional Christian theology interpreting the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Thus, the oratorio is not so much a dramatic presentation of the Messiah story, but more an extended meditation on its mysteries. On the manuscript’s final page, Handel dedicated the work SDG – Soli Deo Gloria.