York around the holidays is blessed with some truly wonderful
cultural events that have become time-honored traditions, from
Balanchine's Nutcracker to Radio City Music Hall's Christmas
Spectacular. One of our favorites is Handel's Messiah
performed by the Trinity Choir. Tradition celebrates
community and continuity, and it has become a secular Christmas
treat for New Yorkers who love their classical music.
Frideric Handel composed Messiah in 1741, and it was first
performed in Dublin the following year. Handel had
previously concentrated on Italian operas but realized that his
audience in England wanted something they could understand.
The oratorio Messiah is in essence an English opera with a
sacred theme. It is set to Charles Jennens's English language libretto
which is based in large part on the Old Testament and contains
verses from the King James Bible that tell the story of the life
of Jesus. It has become the most famous oratorio ever
composed and part of its success lies in the almost divine
concordance between lyrics and music. Messiah has
three sections and the rousing and famous Hallelujah chorus
concludes the second of the three parts. Handel is said to
have composed the oratorio in a three-week frenzy of work.
It was originally written to be performed at Easter but has
instead become a Christmastime staple.
Church holds a special place in the history of Messiah on
this side of the pond - its choir gave the oratorio its North
American World Premiere in 1770. This year, guest conductor
Andrew Megill will lead Trinity Choir along with the Rebel Baroque
Orchestra. The exquisite quality of the singing, the beauty
and acoustics of Trinity Church, the use of period instruments,
and the outstanding musical direction make for a transcendent
Choir performs Handel's Messiah Sunday, December 14 at 3pm
and Tuesday, December 16 at 7:30pm. There is a special free
shorter performance on December15 at 1p. for an hour.