Handel’s “Messiah” (Part I)

Saturday December 15, 2012

Featuring soloists from Exsultemus

Hear the Christmas section of this masterpiece in the intimate setting of First Church, Cambridge, as Handel originally scored it, followed by carols and the Hallelujah Chorus for all to sing. With soloists of Exsultemus: Brenna Wells, Thea Lobo, Matthew Anderson, and Ulysses Thomas.

Brenna Wells, Soprano. Photo by Laurence Kim. Thea Lobo, Alto. Photo by John Coons. Matthew Anderson, Tenor. Ulysses Thomas, Bass.

Notes on the Performance

From Director Mary Beekman
Mary Beekman, Director

As with Handel’s premiere of Messiah, our performance has only a small string ensemble accompanying the chorus for those movements not calling for brass and timpani. Unlike Handel’s first performance, however, in keeping with the time of year that we are presenting it, we perform only the first part, which concerns the Christmas story. The other two parts, telling of Christ’s passion and resurrection, are often performed at this time of year, but they are not relevant to the season and make the work quite a bit longer. Our one exception to this is the inclusion of the Hallelujah chorus to end the concert, for what performance of Handel’s Messiah would be complete without it? You, the audience, will also have an opportunity to sing this movement, along with carols, at the end of the evening.

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Handel wrote many oratorios, or unstaged operas, in his lifetime, but Messiah and Israel in Egypt are the only two that have no specific dramatic roles for soloists; there is no Jesus or Mary. In addition, the story itself, rather than being an expansive libretto postulated upon the Biblical story, unfolds through paraphrases and direct quotes from Biblical verses. Choral movements abound, providing dramatic impetus to the story. For these reasons, the premiere of Messiah in London was poorly received, but by 1750 the work had become popular and has remained so ever since.