A few years ago I attended the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral. The chorus performed the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel. It was so stirring and inspirational that anytime I hear the piece, I am taken back to that evening. Did you know that its words are taken from just three verses from the last book in the Bible? Here’s a little history and video from the Mass Explained App. (Turn up your speakers and enjoy!) You’ll never hear it the same again!
The 18th century German-born composer George Frideric Handel, renowned for his operas, oratorios, and concertos, composed a three-part piece on the life of Christ entitled Messiah. He began composing the oratorio on August 22, 1741 and completed it in 24 days.
The most famous movement is the Hallelujah Chorus, from the Easter section of Messiah. The source for the words are three verses from the King James version of the book of Revelation:
The word Hallelujah is repeated more than 30 times in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
Resembling a coronation anthem, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus is noted for its remarkable gradation of intensity reaching its apex at the King of Kings and Lord of Lords section.
This triumphal piece influenced Beethoven—among others—who admired Handel above all other composers.
Today, Messiah is among Handel’s best-known works, with performances particularly popular during the Christmas and Easter seasons. Handel himself conducted over 30 performances of Messiah, but never during Christmas or Easter. For him, it was a Lenten piece.
How about you? Do you have any ties to Handel’s piece? Is it performed during Easter at your parish? Is it performed at some other time of the Liturgical Cycle? What other music do you look forward to during Easter?