*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 13th of April 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Last week, on the anniversary of the debut performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, I reflected on the history of the piece. I recommended it to you for listening, especially in this Lenten season.
While we are in the season for Lenten and Easter music historical debuts, I mentioned that we would look at another soon. That future is today- but the piece that was debuted on this, the 13th of April in 1742, the work that was performed in total then, today might sound like Christmas music today.
On this date, Handel’s Messiah was first performed- a story I told over at 1517.org a few years ago. Let me hit you with the highlights:
Handel was born in Saxony in 1695- he attended the University of Halle- a center of Lutheran Pietism and Social Services. HIs clavichord skills got him noticed by the DeMedici family. Soon, Georg was in Italy writing Operas (which was scandalous enough- but his operas were of Biblical characters, which may have made some of his old Halle pals blush).
With opera outlawed in parts of Italy by a crusading Pope, Handel made his way to Stuart England, where he was good enough to be tolerated. With the death of Queen Anne, the new English throne would go to the Saxons. The Future king George would be his most significant patron.
Sometime in 1737, Handel suffered a stroke and seemed to have been motivated to compose quickly while he still could. In August of that year, he locked himself into his home and wrote a 300-page Oratorio in 14 days- one that has been performed every year since.
It was meant to be a work parallel to the Passions of J.S. Bach- but they seemed to have the market cornered on Lenten and Holy Week Music. X Handel put together the first complete performance of Messiah in Dublin. It was performed as a fundraiser for men in debtors' prison, and the performance was approved by the then Dean of Trinity Dublin- the priest and satirist Jonathan Swift.
With the piece beginning with the prophecies of Isaiah and their parallels with John the Baptist, it has been moved to Advent, where that part of the libretto matches many of the assigned readings.
Nevertheless, I say to you- reclaim it as year-round music. I won’t tell your organist or choir director if you go to a church with strict rules about these sorts of things.
Today we remembered the debut of Handel’s Messiah (or say Hand-uls “the” Messiah…that’s fine too…) on this the 13th of April in 1742
The Last Word for today comes for this the Wednesday of Holy Week- Psalm 70:
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.
Let those who say, "Aha, Aha!" turn back because of their shame.
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, "God is great!"
But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of April 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who serves as a pastor- and it’s Holy Week- saying a prayer for his parish and busy schedule- Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man telling you to snatch up Steven Kwan… I missed him in one league already—Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.