This is the time when some churches and Christian concert institutions sing and perform Handel’s Messiah, a musical rite of Christmas season, the Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners 250 years after the composer’s death. It is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frederic Handel (1695-1759), with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. The oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music. Some institutions perform this famous work on a yearly basis around this time. In Messiah, says Laurence Cummings, director of the London Handel Orchestra, “the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages.” Handel wrote the original version of Messiah in three to four weeks. Most historic accounts estimate the composer spent only 24 days writing the oratorio. There are roughly a quarter of a million notes in Messiah. At a little more than three weeks of 10-hour days, That means Handel would have had to keep a continuous pace writing 15 notes a minute. An often repeated legend about Messiah tells the story of King George II who was so moved by the “Hallelujah” chorus during the London premiere of Messiah that he rose to his feet and then everyone in attendance followed suit as not to be sitting when the king stood.
Thus we believe the regularly debated tradition of standing during the “Hallelujah” chorus came to be.
Although its structure resembles that of opera, it is not in dramatic form. Instead, Jennens’s text is an extended reflection on Jesus as the Messiah (Christ). The text begins in Part I with prophecies by prophet Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the “scene” taken from the Gospel of Luke. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion of Christ and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus. In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven.
Bible verses are quoted from: Isaiah, Haggai, Malachi, Luke, Zechariah, John, Psalms, Matthew, Lamentations, Hebrews, Revelation, Job, Romans, and 1 Corinthians.
(2) Comfort Ye
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . .
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
(3) Every Valley
4.Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
(4) And the Glory of the Lord
5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
(5) Thus saith the Lord
6. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come
Malachi 3:1 1. The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in:Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(6) But who may abide the Day of His Coming?
2. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
(7) And He shall Purify
3. And He shall purify the sons of Levi. . . that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
(8) Behold A Virgin Shall Conceive
Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23)
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name EMMANUEL, God with us.
(9) O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion
9. O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
1. Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
(10) For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
2. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. 3. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
(11) The people that walked in darkness
Isaiah 9:2 (Matthew 3:16)
2. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
For unto Us a Child is born
6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(13) Pastoral Symphony
(14) There were shepherds abiding in the field
8. There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
9. And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
(15) And the Angel said unto them
10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
(16) And suddenly there was with the Angel
13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
(17) Glory to God
14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(18) Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion
Zechariah 9:9,10 (Matthew 21:5)
9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Savior. . 10. . . And he shall speak peace unto the heathen.
(19) Then shall the eyes of the blind
5. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
(20) He shall feed his flock like a shepherd
11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Matthew 11:28, 29 28. Come unto [Him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [He shall]give you rest. 29. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [Him]; for [he is] meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(21) His yoke is easy
30. [His] yoke is easy, and [his]burden is light.
(22) Behold the lamb of God
29.Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.
(23) He was despised
3. He is despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . Isaiah 50:6 [He]gave [His] back to the smiters, and [His] cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: [He] hid not [His] face from shame and spitting.
(24) Surely He hath borne our griefs
4. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . . 5. . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:the chastisement of our peace was upon him,
(25) And with His stripes we are healed
5. and with His stripes we are healed
(26) All we like sheep have gone astray
6. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(27) All they that see him laugh him to scorn
7. All they that see [him]laugh [him] to scorn: they shoot out their lips, they shake their heads, saying:
(28) He trusted in God
Psalm 22:8 (Matthew 27:43)
8. He trusted [in God] that he would deliver him:let him deliver him, if he delight in him.
(29) Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
20. [Thy] rebuke hath broken [his] heart; [He is] full of heaviness. [He]looked for some to have pity [on Him], but there was none; neither found [He] any to comfort [Him].
(30) Behold, and see if there be any sorrow
12. Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto [his] sorrow. . .
(31) He was cut off out of the land of the living
8. he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of [Thy] people was He stricken.
(32) But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell
Psalm 16:10 (Acts 2:27)
10. [But] thou [didst] not leave [his] soul in hell; neither [didst]thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
(33) Lift up your heads, O ye gates
7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. 8. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. 10. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.
(34) Unto which of the angels said He at any time
Hebrews 1:5 (Psalm 2:7)
5. For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
(35) Let all the angels of God worship Him
6. “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
(36) Thou art gone up on high
Psalm 68:18 (Ephesians 4:8)
18. Thou art gone up on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even for Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
(37) The Lord gave the word
11. The Lord gave the word: great was the company of [the preachers].
(38) How beautiful are the feet
Romans 10:15 (Isaiah 52:7)
15. How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
(39) Their sound is gone out
Romans 10:18 (Psalm 19:4)
18. their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.
(40) Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
Psalm 2:1,2 (Acts 4:25-26)
1. Why do the heathen rage, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? 2. The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed,
(41) Let us break their bonds asunder
3. Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
(42) He that dwelleth in heaven
4. He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision.
(43) Thou shalt break them
9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
6. Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Revelation 11:15 15. . . the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 19:16 16. . . . KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS.
(45) I know that my redeemer liveth
Job 19:25, 26
25. I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand on the latter day upon the earth: 26. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. 1Corinthians 15:20
20. [For] now is Christ risen from the dead. . . the firstfruits of them that [sleep].
(46) Since by man came death
21. Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(47) Behold I tell you a mystery
51. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed, 52. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet;
(48) The trumpet shall sound
52. the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
(49) Then shall be brought to pass
1Corinthians 15:54b (Isaiah 25:8)
54. then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’
(50) O death where is thy sting?
1Corinthians 15:55-56 (Hosea 13:14)
55. O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? 56. The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
(51) But thanks be to God
1 Corinthians 15:57 57. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(52) If God be for us
Romans 8:31, 33, 34
31. If God be for us, who can be against us? 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.
(53) Worthy is the Lamb
Revelation 5:12, 13
12. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13. . . . Blessing, and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.
1998 Bruce L. Johnson
Produced by Techsys, Inc.
The performance I personally like is this one from:
(https://youtu.be/iTMJVvld9ok) 1,016,642 views
Stephen Cleobury conducts a wonderful performance of Handel’s “MESSIAH” from Pieterskerk https://www.youtube.com/collegiumregale
Lynne Dawson, soprano
Hillary Summers, alto
John Mark Ainsley, tenor
Alastair Miles, bass
The Brandenburg Consort
Crispian Steele Perkins, trumpet
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
3:04 Comfort ye my people
5:54 Ev’ry valley
9:15 And the glory of the Lord
12:06 Thus saith the Lord of hosts
13:27 But who may abide
17:31 And he shall purify the sons of Levi
20:07 Behold, a virgin shall conceive
25:56 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
31:18 For unto us a child is born
37:52 There were shepherds
39:11 Glory to God
45:27 Then shall the eyes
50:26 His yoke
53:00 Behold the lamb
55:54 He was despised
1:05:22 Surely he has borne
1:07:05 And with his stripes
1:08:54 All we like sheep
1:12:43 All they that see him
1:15:46 Thy rebuke
1:18:56 He was cut off
1:21:28 Lift up your heads
1:24:32 Unto which of the angels
1:26:24 Thou art gone up on high
1:29:35 The Lord gave the word
1:30:42 How beautiful are the feet
1:32:48 Their sound is gone out
1:34:19 Why do the nations
1:35:45 Let us break their bonds asunder
1:37:28 He that dwelleth
1:43:33 I know that my redeemer liveth
1:49:20 Since by man came death
1:51:24 Behold, I tell you a mystery – The trumpet shall sound
2:00:40 Then shall be brought
2:04:10 If God be for us
2:09:16 Worthy is the lamb