For the week of December 16 thru December 22, 1998  

The Hallelujah Chorus

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ from Wood River Community Chorale


By MARILYN BAUER
Express Staff Writer

Tis the season to be grateful, forgiving, and joyous. Good will toward the men and women with whom we cohabit the Wood River Valley.

The most important holiday of the Christian calendar is irrevocably linked with the drama and beauty of George Frideric Handel’s great oratorio, "Messiah." Every year for the past 17 years, the Wood River Community Chorale has performed the piece giving us yet another reason to be thankful.

Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Charles Catholic Church in Hailey and Dec. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Sun Valley the 50 members of the choir, directed by Patty Parsons, will carry the message of Christ to a non-denominational congregation of Christmas celebrants.

This year’s soloists are sopranos Sue Noel, Ellen Campion and Joyce Greene, tenor David Noland and bass, Lynn Berg.

In the words of Dr. Charles Burney, 18th century music historian, "Messiah" has "fed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched succeeding managers of oratories more than any single musical production in this or any other country."

For more than 250 years, the piece has been performed by countless choirs of amateurs and professionals alike. There have been numerous revisions and reorchestrations but the popularity of this epic story of human redemption has survived it all.

Handel wrote the "Messiah" during a low point in his career.

His first love, opera, was in a decline and after suffering a mild stroke he was suffering from partial paralysis on his left side. Even so, he composed "Messiah" – the score reaching 250 pages -- in the incredibly short period of 21 days.

The occasion was an invitation from the Duke of Devonshire, the lord lieutenant of Ireland to furnish a work for Dublin charities, as well as divine inspiration.

"From the moment he started working on ‘Messiah’ [Handel] was under an uninterrupted spell, in a kind of trance," writes Milton Cross in "Encyclopedia of the Great Composers."

"Again and again his servants found him in tears as he put to paper an awesome phrase or a devout passage. And then, after the last monumental ‘Amen’ had been written, he confided simply to a physician, ‘I think God has visited me.’"

The premiere was met with considerable success, elevating Handel’s spirits enough for him to return to London to stage the mighty "Messiah" there.

Although at the second performance George II stood during the singing of the "Hallelujah" chorus, beginning a tradition that endures today, "Messiah" did not enjoy the popularity of many of Handel’s other oratorios. In fact it was usually only performed at Easter as a benefit for Handel’s favorite charity, the Foundling Hospital.

The libretto, prepared for Handel by Charles Jennens and taken from both the Old and New Testaments considers the whole human experience – hope and fulfillment, suffering and death, resurrection and redemption.

For many of us, "Messiah’s" passion and divine inspiration, grandeur and glory, directness of expression and infinite capacity for self-renewal has become the essence of Christmas.

There is no charge for this weekend’s performance and the audience is invited to join the choir in singing Christmas carols after the concert.

 

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