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Messiah

Messiah

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Published by Dan L White

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Published by: Dan L White on Apr 12, 2011
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04/12/2011

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H
 
omeschool
 
H
 
elpers
 
Newsletter 
Issue 181, April 12, 2011From Homeschool HelpersIn association with Pass It On Ministries
By Dan L. White
I finally saw
Messiah
.The
Messiah Project 
put on a production of Handel's
Messiah
in Branson the othernight. This was our opportunity to see the famous oratorio, so we splurged on timeand gasoline and drove about a hundred miles just for the experience.Handel wrote
Messiah
in three weeks in 1741, the speed helped by borrowing musicfrom some of his previous compositions. The different songs in the work are set tosections of scripture, both Old and New Testaments, about the Messiah. Handelwrote no narrative to accompany and explain the work, but the production we sawdid have a helpful and interesting narrative, focusing on Handel and his writing of the work.Margie had been a fan of 
Messiah
for some time, and would listen to it on hercomputer and read the sections of scripture as they were sung but she had neverseen it performed live, either. Needless to say, I would have driven a hundred milesand sat through almost anything to please her, and she thought I was going only toplease her, so she felt a little guilty about that. However, this is one of the mostbeloved compositions of all time, and I would be a fool not to see it once, so I wasdetermined to go. Not a lot of people shared that determination. The tickets werecheap, ten bucks, but the theater was only half full. I dare say the theater will bemuch fuller for its normal production of an Elvis show. I guess different folks havedifferent Messiahs.
Messiah
was first performed in Dublin, Ireland on April 13, 1742 and is one of thefew classical works that has never gone out of popularity. The Branson theater hadcertain features that were lacking in Dublin nearly four centuries ago, such as largevideo screens on both sides of the stage. Before each song was performed, thewords of the song from scripture were displayed on the big screen, a valuableaddition to the performance, particularly for one who can't hear well.Of course, I had heard a lot about
Messiah,
which is the accurate title, not The
 
Messiah. I hated to say it, but I did not care all that much for the music. I loved theconcept of the oratorio dedicated to Christ, but did not love the music, even thoughthat almost sounded like blasphemy. How could I not care for the music of history'sgreatest oratorio? I have played music for over half a century. I started with threechords and the song Bee Bop A Lula, She's My Baby, but over time got accustomedto more involved patterns, and what I look for in music is generally something I amnot already overly familiar with.
Ava Maria
was written by Franz Schubert in 1825, and the music was later adaptedas a hymn to Mary. Mary worship was adopted by the Roman Church severalcenturies after Christ, along with a number of other practices that they absorbedfrom the Roman society, none of which I believe in. So I do not listen often to AvaMaria because of that fact, yet as I listened to it while writing this, the music itself still moves me greatly and I marvel at the creative capacity that God has placed inpeople. I can distinguish that the song uses ten different chords in the first twenty-four measures, which may be more than Handel used in his whole career.Handel's music never moved me like that. It did not float seamlessly between keysand the chords were somewhat predictable. If you like a certain piece of music, youlike it. If you don't, you don't. I didn't exactly dislike Handel's
Messiah
, but the musicitself did not move me greatly.Beethoven lived about a half century after Handel and he is reputed to have said of Handel: "
the master of us all... the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.
" History does not agree with Ludwig'sassessment, making Beethoven himself the greatest of all. Beethoven also issupposed to have said: "
Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by suchsimple means.
" I assume that Beethoven was referring to the lack of complexity inHandel's music, yet music that can still have a great effect on the listener. Mozartalso spoke of the effect of Handel's music: "
Handel understands affect better thanany of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt.
"The
Hallelujah Chorus
did have such effect, in live performance at the end of 
Messiah
. Everybody is familiar with that chorus, and it is rousing and memorable,even though based on only a few chords. However, when that chorus explodes atthe end of the whole production, the effect is far greater than just listening to thechorus alone. After all, the work is about our Creator and Redeemer, He who madeus and prayed for us as we killed Him, then rose to life again to give us life after wekilled Him. Following all those songs of scripture reflecting on the Messiah, then thewhole chorus sang in unison, going higher and higher up the scale, and finally –"Hallelujah!"Powerful effect!We much appreciated the work of the local choir members, orchestra and soloists,and the work of the Messiah Project, which goes around the world organizing such

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