INCREDIBLE INSPIRATION – Handel’s Messiah

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 Most people are familiar

with Handel’s Messiah and the Hallelujah chorus

as composed by George Friderich Händel.

When he finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus, he said,

“I did think I did see all Heaven before me,

and the great God himself.”

 

“He [Handel] would frequently declare the pleasure

he felt in setting the Scriptures to music,

and how contemplating the many sublime passages

in the Psalms had contributed to his edification.”
—Sir John Hawkins

 

 

 To the London elite, it looked like this “German nincompoop,”

as he was once called, was through.

That summer, however, he composed “Messiah,”

which not only brought him back into the spotlight,

but is still deemed by some to be

an epitome of Christian faith.”

 

 

 It is oftentimes sung during the

Christmas season and is part of Handel’s Messiah.

My husband and I

especially love this music.

It is edifying because it is set to

scripture, especially prophesies of Christ’s first coming.

 It’s quite a story how the Lord blessed Handel

to write the music and prospered

his servant financially afterwards.

It is a wonderful success story.

 

In 1737 Handel’s opera company went bankrupt,

and he suffered what seemed to be a mild stroke.

But to make matters worse,

his latest musical fascination—the oratorio

(a composition for orchestra and voices

telling a sacred story without costumes,

scenery, or dramatic action)—

was his most controversial yet.

His first oratorio (actually, the first of its kind in English),

“Esther,” was met with outrage by the church.

A Bible story was being told by “common mummers,”

and even worse,

the words of God were being spoken in the theater!

 

“What are we coming to when the will of Satan

is imposed upon us in this fashion?”

cried one minister.

The bishop of London apparently agreed

and prohibited the oratorio from being performed.

When Handel proceeded anyway,

and the royal family attended,

it was met with success—

but the church was still angry.

Handel drove himself relentlessly

trying to recover from one failure

after another, and his health began to fail.

In 1741 he was swimming in debt

and it seemed certain he would

land in debtor’s prison

where those who could not

pay their debts were taken.

 In April of that year,

he gave what he considered his

farewell concert.

 Miserably discouraged,

he felt forced to retire from

public activities at the age of 56.

 Then two unforeseen events

converged to change his life.

 A wealthy friend, Charles Jennings,

gave Handel a libretto based on the life of Christ,

taken entirely from the Bible.

 He also received a commission from a Dublin charity

to compose a work for a benefit performance.

Handel set to work

composing on August 22 in his little house in London.

 He grew so engrossed in his work that he rarely left his room,

hardly stopping to eat.

 Within six days Part One was complete.

 In nine days more he had finished Part Two,

and in another six, Part  Three.

 The orchestration was completed in another two days.

 In all, 260 pages of manuscript were filled

in the remarkably short time of 24 days.

Sir Newman Flower, one of Handel’s many biographers,

summed up the consensus of history:

“Considering the immensity of the work and

the short time involved, it will remain, perhaps forever,

the greatest feat in the whole history

of music composition.”

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Handel’s title for the commissioned work was,

simply, Messiah.

Handel never left his house for those three weeks.

 A friend who visited him as he composed

found him sobbing with intense emotion.

 Later, as Handel groped for words to describe what he had

experienced, he incorporated some of the words of Paul,

saying, “Whether in the body or out of my body,

when I wrote it I know not.”

Messiah premiered on April 13, 1742,

as a charitable benefit,

raising 400 pounds and freeing 142 men from debtor’s prison.

The King of England attended the performance

and as the first notes of the triumphant “Hallelujah Chorus

rang out, the king rose to his feet.

 Following royal protocol, the entire audience stood too,

initiating a tradition which has lasted for more than two centuries.

Soon after this, Handel’s fortunes began to increase dramatically,

and his hard- won popularity remained constant until his death.

 

By the end of his long life,

Messiah was firmly established in the standard repertoire.

 His influence on other composers would be extraordinary.

When Haydn later heard the “Hallelujah Chorus,”

he wept like a child and exclaimed,

“He is the master of us all!”

But it is evident that this great composition

was the work of SOMEONE  greater than just Handel.

Handel was the conduit through which this

masterpiece flowed,

but it was God Himself Who seems to have

authored it.

It is He Who is the real Master of all who seek Him

and allow Him to work through them!

Handel personally conducted

more than thirty performances of Messiah.

Many of these concerts were benefits for the

Foundling Hospital of which Handel was a major benefactor.

 The thousands of pounds Handel’s performances of Messiah

raised caused his biographer to note,

Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked,

fostered the orphan more than any other single

musical production

in this or any country.”

Another wrote how that the works of no

other composer have so largely contributed

to the relief of human suffering.

Handel was a devout follower of Christ

and his morals were above reproach.

 Known universally for his generosity

and concern for those who suffered,

Handel donated freely to charities

even in times when he faced personal financial ruin.

 He was a relentless optimist

whose faith in God sustained him through every difficulty.

His close friend James Moore Smythe wrote,

“He died as he lived-a good Christian,

with a true sense of his duty to God and to man,

and in perfect charity with all the world.”

 Handel was buried in Westminster Abbey,

with over 3,000 in attendance at his funeral.

 A statue erected there shows him holding the manuscript

for the solo that opens Part Three of

I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

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Isn’t it wonderful to know

that our Redeemer lives

and was born to this very end?

 

 

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