The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra returns to the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Sunday with the second concert in its 2012-13 WSO in Brandon season.
Start your holiday tradition with Handel’s "Messiah" featuring guest conductor Ivars Taurins and talented guest artists including soprano Andriana Chuchman, alto Kirsten Schellenberg, tenor Isaiah Bell, bass Victor Engbrecht and the Mennonite Festival Chorus. William Baerg, Janet Brenneman and Rudy Schellenberg are the co-directors.
The most celebrated oratorio of all time, Handel’s "Messiah" elicits almost an involuntary response of recognition at the mere mention of its name. Yet for all the visionary qualities in the music’s progression from dark to light, the dramatic strength of "Messiah" comes not from telling a story.
Handel’s theatrical background was inbred when he composed "Messiah," but his priority was contemplation of the sacred rather than the dramatic.
"I should be sorry if I only entertained them" Handel told an admirer. "I wished to make them better."
"Messiah" is an anomaly among Handel’s two dozen oratorios in that, apart from Israel in Egypt, its entire text is drawn from the Bible and is his only oratorio based on the New Testament.
It was also the only oratorio presented in a consecrated space during his lifetime.
Handel withdrew from public life in the early months of 1741 and seldom ventured out. But that summer, he came across a small book of Biblical texts assembled by Charles Jennens, a wealthy and pretentious type but a great admirer of the composer.
Handel’s imagination lit up. Completing "Messiah" on Sept. 14, 1741, in just over three weeks, the Dublin premiere on April 13, 1742, was a triumph.
And of the famous tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus?
Many explanations have surfaced as to just why King George II decided to stand at that point, thereby commanding the audience to do the same: Did the King need to stretch his legs after an hour of sitting, exacerbated perhaps by gout? In standing, did the King see himself as Lord of Lords just as the Hallelujah Chorus states Christ as King of Kings? Did King George take the first four notes as the national anthem?
History denies us the reason, but another perhaps questionable story is more reflective of our response to this incomparable section of "Messiah": Reportedly Handel’s assistant walked in to Handel’s room after shouting to him for several minutes with no response. When the assistant entered, he found Handel in tears.
Holding up the score to the Hallelujah Chorus, he said, "I thought I saw the face of God."
Sunday’s concert takes place at 3 p.m., with a pre-concert chat in the WMCA lobby at 2:15 p.m.
Single tickets are available at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium at 204-728-9510 or wmca.ca.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 12, 2012