By 1741, George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) had become one of the most famous men in England. He received his training in Germany and Italy, and had, until recently, been earning a handsome sum composing operas, instrumental music and some significant choral music. Recent changes in taste had audiences turning away from Italian operas, and Handel had enjoyed some success composing a few English oratorios—works like operas, but based on Biblical stories, and without costumes and staging. In bringing this form to English audiences, Handel’s oratorios Esther, Deborah, Saul, and Israel in Egypt literally were the genesis of a new genre of English choral music and propelled him to even greater fame. Not until Mendelssohn’s Elijah would there be another oratorio in English that came even close to the quality and popularity of Handel’s works.
During this period, Handel received an assemblage of Biblical texts from patron, amateur Biblical scholar, and librettist, Charles Jennens, the subject of which, according to Jennens, was “Messiah.” Although he did not begin work immediately on a setting of these texts, Handel eventually composed one of history’s most endearing musical masterpieces, based entirely on God’s work of redemption through Jesus Christ.
Part I of Messiah is concerned with the arrival of the Messiah in fulfillment of prophecy and is popularly performed during the Christmas season. However, God’s active work of redemption through Christ, including Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection and future kingdom, is the theme of Part II and Part III. After Part I’s presentation of Christ as the Light come into the world, Part II begins with the foreboding “Behold the Lamb of God” and continues with description of mankind’s rejection of God’s Son as Messiah. After Christ suffers, dies, resurrects, and ascends to heaven, the gospel advances to the far reaches of the earth, and His foes are defeated. At this moment, the heavenly chorus proclaims “Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” The theme of Part III is the resurrection and Christ’s victory over death, concluding with the great celestial benediction and Amen!
Thus, it is fitting that Camelback’s Sanctuary Choir, with soloists and orchestra, will present Parts II and III in a free concert just before Holy Week, at 3:00pm, Sunday, March 30. The Choir will be joined by professional soloists from the Phoenix Chorale and a professional orchestra. You won’t want to miss this wonderful way to begin celebrating the Easter season!
Written by Guy Whatley - Website
Guy Whatley studied music at University of Bristol in England and organ in Stuttgart, Germany as well as other European countries. He holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in organ performance from Arizona State University. Dr. Whatley is a frequent lecturer, harpsichordist, and soloist with many local and regional choirs and orchestras. He has served as organist at CBC since 2008 and Director of Music and Worship since 2011.