Händel for Holy Week

Musick Hall in Dublin

Arguably the finest musical representation of the life of Christ is Händel’s Messiah. It is a beautiful combination of representative verses from Scripture. The music support and emphasizes its message. Rather than the confusion and disturbance of the present philosophies, the Messiah proclaims beauty and harmony in a fallen world. A moment of reflection in times of quarantine and virus.

The Messiah was first performed at Easter 1742, in Dublin (Ireland). The local Musick Hall kindly requested that ladies would not wear hoop dresses so that a record crowd of seven hundred people was welcomed.

Susannah Cibber, contralto, the best paid and most famous actress in 18th century England.

Messiah is presented by an alternation of soloists and choir responses. The already famous Susannah Cibber sung the prophecy from Isaiah 53 on the sufferings of Christ in a heartfelt way: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” According to tradition, the Rev. Patrick Delany was so overwhelmed by this enchanting combination of word and song that he jumped to his feet and cried out: “Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!”

There was a background to this incident. Cibber had survived many years of an abusive marriage with a greedy husband. In the end, she eloped with another man, who was rather well off. Lots of stories ran wild about her morals previously and after, but the way the matter was treated in the courts suggests that her husband was most to blame. Anyway, the spontaneous cry of the reverend clergyman was far more serious than a 21st century reader would suppose.

In December 2019, ABC classic recorded a technically wonderful version of the Messiah by the Sydney Symphony orchestras in the famous Opera House. Click on this this link to listen for free and safely.

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