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.