Monday, April 17, 2017

Why Handel’s “Messiah” Has Been Forgotten at Eastertime by Annie Holmquist


The other day, I heard an announcer on a local classical radio station gently chide his listeners, saying, “It’s almost Easter, and I haven’t had one request from our audience for selections from Handel’s Messiah!”
For those who think of the Messiah as a Christmas tradition, this announcer’s request seems a bit odd. But historically speaking, he’s right on track. The Messiah was originally intended for Passion Week—the time in which Christians remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and was first performed shortly after Easter in 1742. Indeed, a much larger portion of the Messiah text focuses on Christ’s death and resurrection than his birth.
In Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, author Ace Collins further describes Messiah’s Easter connections:
By 1900, the Messiah was so closely linked to Easter that people began to expect to hear the oratorio each year. A performance of the Messiah was the surest way to fill up a church or a concert hall. In small English towns, as well as in large cities, the annual presentation of Handel’s work brought out throngs of people. It had become such a tradition that many could not imagine Easter without Handel’s Messiah.…
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