Handel was born in Saxony in 1685, the same year that J.S. Bach was born in Thuringia, though the two were destined never to meet. Whereas Bach remained in North Germany for the whole of his life, writing a vast amount of choral and instrumental music for his church and court employers, Handel travelled widely, unencumbered with family responsibilities, first to Italy, where he learned the art of opera and adopted the Italian style of writing which coloured his sub-sequent compositions.
On his return, he became Director of Music to the Elector of Hanover, but soon left for England, where he immersed himself in the flourishing operatic scene. His former employer followed him to London in 1714, where he was crowned King George I. It was for him that Handel wrote his famous ‘Water Music’ in 1717.
Handel now moved in the highest circles, becoming Musical Director to the Duke of Chandos and travelling abroad to engage singers for his fourteen new operas. In 1727 he wrote four anthems for the coronation of George II, including ‘Zadok the Priest’, which has been sung at every British coronation since then.
The popularity of Italian-style operas began to wane in England and Handel, somewhat unwillingly, turned his attention to the composition of dramatic oratorios, which proved immensely popular with the English public, thereby sustaining him through the ill-health and eventual blindness which blighted his later years. He died at the age of 74 and was buried with great honour in Westminster Abbey. Beethoven later said of him, “Go and learn of him how to achieve great effects with simple means”; and Haydn, hearing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ in Westminster Abbey at the great Handelian Festival of 1791, rose to his feet with the crowd, wept, and exclaimed, “He is the master of us all.”
‘Messiah’, composed between 22nd August and 14th September 1741, with a libretto selected from scriptures by Charles Jennens, was first performed in Dublin on 13th April 1742, since when it has remained at the forefront of the choral repertoire, both at home and abroad.
South Devon Choir will sing Part 1, the Advent/Christmas section of this mighty work on Saturday 10 December 2016 at Central Church, Tor Hill Road, Torquay. The performance starts at 7.30pm and tickets are available on the door at a cost of £12. The Choir will also perform Lo! Star Led Chiefs by Dr Crotch, Christus Natus Est! by the contemporary composer Cecelia McDowall and there will be Christmas carols for all to sing. In addition there will be two special solos from the unfinished oratorio ‘Christus’ by Mendelssohn. With professional soloists and organist Simon Dunbavand and conducted by John Hobbs the evening promises to be full of wonderful harmonies and Christmas spirit.
For further information and online tickets click Hallelujah! It’s Christmas!