A Resonant Easter Greeting


Although we tend to associate George Frideric Handel’s Messiah with the Christmas season, the oratorio debuted in Dublin on April 13, 1742, and its earliest performances often coincided with Easter.

For the Dublin premiere, approximately thirty cathedral-trained singers made up the choir, accompanied by an equally-sized orchestra of strings, winds, trumpets, and timpani. Over the years, Handel himself revised the score innumerable times, customizing it to suit the number of available musicians.

Eventually, larger-scale productions became the norm, sometimes utilizing as many as four thousand singers with orchestras to match. Today, tastes have changed; intimate performances presenting Messiah with baroque chamber ensembles are more common.

Still, certain passages such as the famed “Hallelujah Chorus” seem to demand a grander presentation. Especially for the Australians and New Zealanders among my readers, and for music lovers of every sort, I offer this version: the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs joined with the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra, performing live at the magnificent Sydney Opera House.

Happy Easter!

Comments always are welcome.

61 thoughts on “A Resonant Easter Greeting

  1. This music still thrills me no matter how many times I’ve heard it. The first time I heard it, the trumpeter for “The Trumpet Shall Sound” was concealed in the back of the auditorium, and when they started playing, the hairs went up on the back of my neck and my pulse kicked in

    1. That’s another of my favorite selections from the oratorio, and this version, with John Thiessen, is one of the best I’ve found. On the other hand, you’re right about the power of a live performance, and a creatively placed trumpeter. The Houston Symphony did that once, and it was hair-raising, in the best sense of that word.

    1. There’s every sort of beauty in the world, and Handel’s music is a part of it: just as Madeleine L’Engle’s words always are. Happy Easter, Arti!

  2. I didn’t know the Hallelujah Chorus wasn’t first performed at Christmastime. Nor did I know that Handel tweaked it often. The things I learn here. Happy Easter, the first one on which I’ll be humming the Hallelujah Chorus.

    1. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is marvelous, but for Easter (or Christmas), I’ll take Handel every time. He’s the sort of ‘influencer’ I can appreciate. Happy Easter!

        1. Indeed. In an unrelated but interesting aside, I finally had a chance to visit a bit with a fellow who now lives across from me. He has a very interesting accent, and I finally asked him where he came from. Believe it or not, he’s a native of Cairo.

          1. Not too surprising, given 20 million people live in the city. Sabaa, our guide, told us that the majority of young college graduates in Egypt leave the country to get jobs outside, and then send money back to their families. It is a major source of income in Egypt.

    1. Obrigado. Espero que o seu também tenha ficado feliz! (How did our friendly translator do? I did recognize that your greetings were Portuguese rather than Spanish!)

  3. The grandest presentation of the Chorus for me personally was at my wedding, where half the crowd stood on their chairs to sing the whole thing. It lent a certain focus to the years that followed. Happy Easter!

  4. Thanks for the link! And it’s funny, but the church we go to now always ends their Easter service with singing the Hallelujah chorus. It seems rather fitting, even though I always think of it as a Christmas song.

    1. I grew up with the Messiah as a Christmas tradition, too, so it was quite a revelation to learn it was more commonly sung at Easter. It certainly fits. Apparently your music director knows the history of the piece, too!

  5. Wonderful and it makes one wonder and wander. Such magnificence and in the Sydney Opera House as well, which does me proud.

    As an aside, this magnificent building is steeped in historical controversy whereby the original Danish architect Jorn Utzon was sacked by a philistine art hating government. He never even saw the completed version of his creation. The cost of the Opera house was mainly funded by selling lottery tickets.

    Hallelujah indeed and what a great performance.

    1. That’s interesting, about the history of the Opera House. Oddly (or not), I first became aware of the building because of New Year celebrations; it often was featured on our television presentations from Australia. Your comment about lottery ticket funding is both amusing and intriguing. I’m going to have to read a bit more about the building’s history.

      As for the music — the performance was wonderful, and should do you proud.

  6. When I was in Zambia I joined a community choir production of this. I was in the alto section & having never sung the thing in my life it was VERY interesting. Ha!

    1. There’s nothing more fun than singing along with something like the “Hallelujah Chorus,” no matter how poorly done. I still remember portions of the oratorio, and can be tempted to add my voice.

  7. Our choir sang this Easter and it has been resonating all week. To hear its echo in your post is divine timing. Your link led to a more satisfying rendition but Handel’s genius can’t be sullied. Thank you, Linda.

    1. As one of my choir directors liked to say, the advice is “make a joyful noise” unto the Lord, not “be ready for a Met performance next week.” Singing or listening, this one is memorable.

  8. Supposedly at the premier of Handel’s Messiah in London in 1747, George II was so moved by the Hallelujah chorus that he stood up out of respect. It was a tradition for centuries which alas nobody knows about any more. O tempore, O mores.

  9. I’ve heard a fair number of this work (including a large orchestral version on our CD shelf) and admit to “larger is better” as my feeling for it. I am in awe of the composers (and conductors) who could put together music for so many voices and instruments and have it all fit in such perfect harmony.
    Sorry I am late in commenting and offering my Easter greetings, Linda. Hope it was a lovely day for you.

    1. You’re not late. For some of us, Easter is a season rather than a day — just like the twelve days of Christmas. It was a terrific Easter day, albeit cold and cloudy, with a bit of drizzle and a whole lot of chiggers. The good with the bad, and all that!

        1. You want bad? How about this? The four puncture wounds from my neighbor’s dog latching onto my leg Monday are healing nicely, and now I’m up to date with my tetanus shot. All things considered, I’ll take chiggers over the dog, which my neighbor had on its leash when it bit. I guess my leg looked so tasty he couldn’t resist.

          Anyway, all’s well. The dog is chipped and has all its shots, although he’s on a five-day home quarantine now. I’m on a week long course of antibiotics, and my neighbor and I still are on good terms. At day five and day ten, the animal control officer will check back to be sure everything’s fine, and on we’ll go. There’s always an adventure!

          1. I did not want bad but I guess that did make the chiggers less bad. We just did the antibiotic thing here. Bentley apparently did something to his neck the week before last. When Mary Beth was letting him out she tried to straighten his collar (it only is for his tags, we keep him in a harness to avoid injury) and that hurt his neck which caused him to bite her. She got a couple of stitches and a container of Amoxicillin to take for a week. She also had a splint and bandages on her middle finger which I advised her to be careful about how she shows which finger was wounded. Bentley was also on some meds, pain killer and a calmative. I can happily report that both patients made a full recovery. I also made a few purchases to keep him from possibly hurting himself again. His steps and his throne. There is also a short flight of stairs so he can get on and off the bed with ease. Dogs rule in our household.

            1. Well, Mary Beth and I got the same prescription. Apparently it’s the go-to for encounters with frisky pups. I’m glad all’s well over there, too.

            2. It’s good that you and your neighbor remain amicable. You just never know for sure what a dog will do I guess. The exact same thing happened with Murphy and one of our neighbors. She actually apologized to me for Murphy’s bad act. People being people advised her to sue me but she laughed that off, thank goodness. I have to say though that under normal circumstances I cannot picture Bentley biting someone unless it’s in what he considers self defense. I guess Murphy wanted Lauri to know I was his human, not hers. Maybe you should kid the control officer a bit and while panting say that you have an inordinate craving for liver flavored kibble.

            3. My neighbor showed up at my door a few minutes ago with a bouquet of flowers and another apology. I’m starting to feel as though I should apologize to him for putting my leg in front of his dog!

    1. Well, Easter Day may be past, but we’re still in the Easter season, at least liturgically speaking, so you’re not late at all! I hope you had a fine celebration, yourself!

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