Went to see Handel’s Messiah with my daughter which prompted me to want to write this post. The singing was wonderful and the small orchestra was uplifting. We shared a great evening and I’m buying her a version of it on cd for Christmas.George Fredrick Handel (born in Halle, Germany but doing most of his work in England) was not a theologian, Bible scholar, evangelist or Christian educator, but his heart was open to whatever beautiful words that were found in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures and he sensed that Jesus was the salvation of humanity.
There were passages from the King James Version of the Bible that entranced the great musician, moving him to closet himself away for a month, barely eating and sleeping while the greatest music the world has ever known wrote itself – bursting forth from the greatest words and greatest message ever heard (if you are a Christian that is).
Most people probably don’t know that there was a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer that Handel used.
On the 13th April, 1742, the music hall in Dublin resounded to the applause of an enthusiastic audience. For the first time in history, the great musical oratorio, Messiah, had been presented; and the conductor on that occasion, was none other than the composer himself, George Frederick Handel.
Oratorio means “oratory by music.” Oratorios were originally designed to educate people in significant portions of the Bible. They date back to the time when Bibles were so expensive that few could afford them, and of the few who could, fewer still were sufficiently educated to be able to read them. To overcome the barriers of ignorance, or unavailability of the Scriptures, the great texts of the Bible were put to music, and men (I’m hoping women too) were taught to learn and sing them. Some of this sacred music of the past is now incorporated in the hymns familiar to people all over the world; particularly the Psalms of David.
Handel’s oratorio presents oratory in music capable of thrilling audiences with some of the greatest and most beautiful of God’s words. This seems to have been partly the intention of the composer. At the conclusion of the first innovation at Dublin a friend approached Handel. “I must congratulate you upon such a beautiful piece of entertainment,” he said to the composer. “Entertainment!” exclaimed Handel, “That was not written for entertainment, it was written for education.” It is said, that on no occasion did Handel conduct this oratorio for money, but invariably for charity. Good for him!
Well the truth still stands…if the world will be saved…it will be through music.