Since the premiere in Dublin in 1742, Handel’s Messiah has been performed by choirs across the world. Messiah was originally conceived as a work for Easter and was premiered in the spring during the Lent season.
Diana McVey, soprano
Veronica Pollicino, mezzo
Nicholas Simpson, tenor
Brad Baron, bass-baritone
Linda Sweetman-Waters, organ
Eric Dale Knapp, conductor
George Frideric Handel
MESSIAH HWV 56
The Passion in nine movements including the oratorio's longest movement, an air for alto He was despised, then mentions death, resurrection, ascension, and reflects the spreading of the Gospel and its rejection. The part is concluded by a scene called "God's Triumph" that culminates in the Hallelujah Chorus.
The final part of the oratorio concentrates on Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the dead and Christ's glorification in heaven. Part Three opens with one of the most astoundingly conceived arias in Handel’s output, air for soprano, “I know that my redeemer liveth”.
MESSIAH SING TRADITION
This cherished tradition invites all to share in singing Handel's masterpiece.
All area singers are invited to participate.
The public is invited to sing or simply listen.
Scores will be available at the door or you may bring your own score.
Want to practice ahead of time?
Singers of all skill levels are more than welcome to join in singing the chorus parts for this Messiah Sing!
If you would like to practice before the concert, we've included the linkl to practice videos for each voice part:
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
THE GLORIOUS HISTORY OF HANDEL’S MESSIAH
Jonathan Kandell, Smithsonian Magazine, December 2009
A musical rite of the holiday season, the Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners more than 250 years after the composer’s death. George Frideric Handel's Messiah was originally an Easter offering. It burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience swelled to a record 700. Handel composed Messiah in an astounding interlude, somewhere between three and four weeks in August and September 1741. "He would literally write from morning to night," says Sarah Bardwell of the Handel House Museum in London. The text was prepared in July by the prominent librettist, Charles Jennens, and was intended for an Easter performance the following year. "I hope [Handel] will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excel all his former Compositions, as the Subject excels every other Subject," Jennens wrote to a friend.
There were several reasons for the choice of Dublin for Messiah's debut. Handel had been downcast by the apathetic reception that London audiences had given his works the previous season. He did not want to risk another critical failure, especially with such an unorthodox piece. Other Handel oratorios had strong plots anchored by dramatic confrontations between leading characters. But Messiah offered the loosest of narratives: the first part prophesied the birth of Jesus Christ; the second exalted his sacrifice for humankind; and the final section heralded his Resurrection.
Dublin was one of the fastest-growing, most prosperous cities in Europe, with a wealthy elite eager to display its sophistication and the economic clout to stage a major cultural event. "So it was a great advantage for Handel to make the voyage to Dublin to try out his new work, and then bring it back to London," says Keates, comparing the composer to Broadway producers who tried out plays in New Haven before staging them in New York City.
There is little doubt about Handel's own fondness for the work. His annual benefit concerts for his favorite charity—London's Foundling Hospital, a home for abandoned and orphaned children—always included Messiah. And, in 1759, when he was blind and in failing health, he insisted on attending an April 6 performance of Messiah at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden. Eight days later, Handel died at home.
Handel was a Governor and benefactor of the Foundling Hospital in London, an orphanage for poor and destitute children. To raise funds, he conducted Messiah and continued to do so for every year until his death in 1759. In total, he personally conducted roughly 36 performances of Messiah. The annual performances of Messiah provided vital sources of income for the Hospital and raised thousands of British pounds for relief on the streets. Charles Burney, an eighteenth century music historian, remarked that Handel's Messiah 'fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan.” Another writer wrote, “Perhaps no other work has so largely contributed to the relief of human suffering.” His total estate was assessed at 20,000 pounds, which made him a millionaire by modern standards. He left the bulk of his fortune to charities and much of the remainder to friends, servants and his family in Germany.
Amassing a fortune through his music and shrewd investments in London's burgeoning stock market, Handel donated munificently to orphans, retired musicians and the ill. (He gave his portion of his Messiah debut proceeds to a debtors' prison and hospital in Dublin.) A sense of humanity imbues his music as well—a point often made by conductors who compare Handel with Bach. But where Bach's oratorios exalted God, Handel was more concerned with the feelings of mortals. "Even when the subject of his work is religious, Handel is writing about the human response to the divine," says conductor Bicket. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Messiah. "The feelings of joy you get from the Hallelujah choruses are second to none," says conductor Cummings. "And how can anybody resist the Amen chorus at the end? It will always lift your spirits if you are feeling down."
Ludwig van Beethoven said, “Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel on his grave.” Beethoven also praised Handel’s ability to achieve “great effects with simple means.”
The verses used as text for Messiah were assembled by Handel’s friend Charles Jennens, a wealthy supporter of the arts. They were drawn from three parts of the Bible: Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah’s birth; New Testament stories of the birth of Christ, his death, and his resurrection; and verses relating ultimately to Judgment Day, with the final chorus text drawn from the Book of Revelation.
Librettist Charles Jennens, who was a close friend and collaborator with Handel, used the biblical stories of Jesus for the Messiah’s text. Jennens described his work as “a meditation of our Lord as Messiah in Christian thought and belief.” But only the first third of the work was about the birth of Jesus. The second act covers the death of Jesus and the third focused on his resurrection. As such, the piece was originally conceived as a work for Easter and was premiered in the spring during the Lent season.
In an age when illiteracy was widespread and written copies of the Bible were expensive and rare, Handel became excited about Jennens’ idea. Handel pioneered the “oratorio” a musical composition designed to teach the scriptures by setting them to music. He wanted to take the message of the scriptures to the streets and specifically with the intent that they would be heard in secular theaters. The church was outraged and protested, but Handel persisted even though doing this also meant little or no profit from his endeavors.
At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters 'SDG', meaning Soli Deo Gloria or 'To God alone the glory'. Handel wanted people to glorify God when they listen to or perform Messiah.
1. Sinfonia – (Instrumental)
22. Chorus – “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1, v.29)
23. Air (mezzo-soprano) – “He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53, v.3); “He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: he hid not his face from shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50, v.6)
24. Chorus – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;” (Isaiah 53, vv.4–5)
25. Chorus – “And with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53, v.5)
26. Chorus – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53, v.6)
27. Accompagnato (tenor) – “All they that see him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying,” (Psalm 22, v.7)
28. Chorus – “He trusted in God that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, if he delight in him.” (Psalm 22, v.8)
29. Accompagnato (tenor) – “Thy rebuke hath broken his heart; he is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on him, but there was no man, neither found he any to comfort him.” (Psalm 69, v.20)
30. Arioso (tenor) – “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow.” (Lamentations 1, v.12)
31. Accompagnato (tenor) – “He was cut off out the land of the living: for the transgressions of thy people was he stricken.” (Isaiah 53, v.8)
32. Air (tenor) – “But thou didst not leave his soul in hell; nor didst thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16, v.10)
33. Chorus – “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (Psalm 24, vv.7–10)
34. Recitative (tenor) – “Unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?” (Hebrews 1, v.5)
35. Chorus – “Let all the angels of God worship him.” (Hebrews 1, v.6)
36. Air (mezzo-soprano) – “Thou art gone up on high; thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men: yea, even for thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” (Psalm 68, v.18)
37. Chorus – “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of the preachers.” (Psalm 68, v.11)
38. Air (soprano) – “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10, v.15)
39. Chorus – “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Romans 10, v.18)
40. Air (bass) – “Why do the nations so furiously rage together: and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed.” (Psalm 2, vv.1–2)
41. Chorus – “Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.” (Psalm 2, v.3)
42. Recitative (tenor) – “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: the Lord shall have them in derision.” (Psalm 2, v.4)
43. Air (tenor) – “Thou shall break them with a rod of iron; thou shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2, v.9)
44. Chorus – “Hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Revelation 19, v.6); “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11, v.15); “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” (Revelation 19, v.16) “Hallelujah!”
45. Air (soprano) – “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (Job 19, vv.25–26); “For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.” (I Corinthians 15, v.20)
46. Chorus – “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15, vv.21–22)
47. Accompagnato (bass) – “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet:” (I Corinthians 15, vv.51–52)
48. Air (bass) – “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Corinthians 15, 52–53)
49. Recitative (mezzo-soprano) – “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15, v.54)
50. Duet (mezzo-soprano/tenor) – “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (I Corinthians 15, vv.55–56)
51. Chorus – “But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15, v.57)
52. Air (soprano) – “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8, v. 31); “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8, vv.33–34)
53. Chorus – “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honour, glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Revelation 5, vv.12–14) “Amen.”
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Linda Sweetman-Waters, piano
Linda Sweetman-Waters’ keyboard talents have provided her with a multi-faceted career as a piano soloist, chamber musician, accompanist and organist. She has performed in New York City at Carnegie Hall, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Weill Recital Hall, Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium, Merkin Hall and WQXR’s “Listening Room.”
Linda has also performed as guest soloist with the North Jersey Philharmonic and the Williamsburg Symphonia in Williamsburg, Virginia. On numerous occasions she has been guest artist with the Ridgewood Symphony and premiered the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra which was composed for her by Richard Lane. She was guest soloist with the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra in China and performed at the White House and the National Gallery of Art. Linda has dazzled audiences both in the United States and abroad. She performed in Vienna at The International Haydn Festival, in the famed Musikverein and in Beijing at the Forbidden City Concert Hall and in Shanghai at the Oriental Arts Center in celebration of the XXIX Olympiad.
In her role as pianist/organist with the New Jersey Choral Society, she has performed in Berlin, Prague, Sidney and Rome. Her travels as a chamber musician have taken her to Copenhagen, London, Brussels and Zurich.
As Linda Sweetman-Waters, piano an accompanist, she has collaborated with conductors Lenora Thom, Joshua Greene, Diane Wittry, Janna Hymes and currently with Eric Dale Knapp of the New Jersey Choral Society. With MidAmerica Productions, NYC, she has worked under the baton of John Rutter. In London, Linda was rehearsal accompanist for The Fire Within, a Concert of Friendship and Goodwill in tribute of the 2012 Summer Olympic Events. She also had the opportunity to perform in Southwark Cathedral, London and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Linda was organist for The Normandy Festival in France with performances in Rouen at L’Eglise Saint-Maclou and in Paris at the L’Eglise de la Madaleine.
She is an alumna of the Vienna State Academy of Music in Austria and a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. In addition to her music studio, she is the organist at the First Presbyterian Church of Ridgewood New Jersey and Artist in Residence with the New Jersey Choral Society, and Connecticut Choral Society. She has served as an adjunct faculty member at William Paterson University and presently is on the board of the Professional Music Teachers Guild.
Eric Dale Knapp, conductor
Mr. Knapp is a dynamic conductor whose commitment and energy empower the musicians he leads to give performances that embrace the soul. Maestro Knapp’s mastery of the choral and orchestral repertoire spans the full spectrum, from fresh yet authentic interpretations of traditional works to visionary performances of multimedia works of the new millennium. A versatile musical leader, equally adept with classics and pops, Knapp’s finely honed ability to communicate through both gesture and speech place him at the forefront of the rising conductors of his generation.
Mr. Knapp has enjoyed success in music education at all levels, church music, collegiate teaching, and with accomplished amateur and professional choral and orchestral organizations. EDK has conducted in world-class concert halls, including Carnegie Hall (New York), the Sydney Opera House, Shanghai’s Oriental Arts Center, The Forbidden City Concert Hall (Beijing), The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (Los Angeles), Dvorák Hall (Prague), Vienna’s famed Musikverein, Cadogan Hall and Southwark Cathedral (London), Lake Como Opera House (Italy) and the historical cathedral La Madeleine (Paris).
Mr. Knapp is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Conductor of the Connecticut Choral Society and Orchestra, which he has led to critical acclaim both in the United States and abroad, and Artistic Director of Gotham Concerts, LLC. As Founder and Artistic Director of Orchestra Nexus EDK has appeared in concert under the auspice of ON & NEXUS CHORAL ARTISTS. NEXUS ARTS & CLUTURE is the Signature Corporation of ON which is currently under development for a post COVID-19 global relaunch.
Mr. Knapp is based in New York City and is represented by Wade Artist Management – NY, NY.