Handel’s Messiah

Handel’s Messiah 






George Frederic Handel 23rd of February 1685, Halle, Germany to 14th of April 1759, London, England. 



Handel Memorial


The last performance Handel ever attended was of Messiah, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. More than three thousand mourners attended his funeral, which was given full state honours.





In 2009 the Smithsonian wrote this lovely piece: 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, as ladies had heeded pleas by management to wear dresses "without Hoops" in order to make "Room for more company." Handel's superstar status was not the only draw; many also came to glimpse the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then embroiled in a scandalous divorce. The men and women in attendance sat mesmerized from the moment the tenor followed the mournful string overture with his piercing opening line: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." Soloists alternated with wave upon wave of chorus, until, near the midway point, Cibber intoned: "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." So moved was the Rev. Patrick Delany that he leapt to his feet and cried out: "Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!"

Now, of course, Messiah is a fixture of the Christmas season. Woe to the concert hall in the United States or Britain that fails to schedule the piece around the holiday, when, as well, CD sales and Web downloads of the oratorio soar. For many amateur choirs, the work is the heart of their repertoire and the high point of the year. In most of Handel's oratorios, the soloists dominate and the choir sings only brief choruses. But in Messiah, says Laurence Cummings, director of the London Handel Orchestra, "the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages."

This year, the 250th anniversary of Handel's death, has been a boon to the Baroque composer and his best-known work. The commemoration has centred in London, where Handel lived for 49 years, until his death in 1759 at age 74. The BBC has broadcast all of his operas, more than 40 in total, and every one of the composer's keyboard suites and cantatas was performed during the annual London Handel Festival, which included concerts at St. George's Hanover Square church, where Handel worshiped, and at the Handel House Museum ("See Handel Slept Here,"), long time residence of the man that Ludwig van Beethoven himself, citing Messiah, said was the "greatest composer that ever lived."

To us, our safe arrival in Sydney [although we ended up falling short and running for Newcastle – but hey, we overnight tomorrow so we will be here on Tuesday morning] warranted a special event to mark what we feel is a bit of an achievement. Today, the 6th of December 2015 heralds exactly seven and a half years and twenty five thousand, one hundred and seventy nine point eight two nautical miles since we began this At-Venture of ours. Handel’s Messiah seemed so right for the occasion.





Our present to each other and Beez Neez – at Sydney Opera House.





Leaving the little hire car in the Opera House car park – all very simple and efficient, we walked out into the sunshine to take in the ambience of the cafes and bars along the waterfront. A celebratory libation and what a smashing sight to see Bear sitting with the iconic building beside him.



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I had to pose too, then we went inside the amazing building and once again found the efficiency so smooth. We found the collection booth, handed over the booking number and the credit card we had used and there they were – our tickets. We also collected our tickets for the Best of Opera for the 27th of December. We had a little time before the doors opened so we had a look around the little shop. Well colour me happy – a Pandora Opera House. Bear treated me to it immediately and then we went up the stairs for a drink and snack. One of the choir saw me about to take a picture of Bear and offered to take one of the two of us together.



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Our pre show treats and Maltesers to take in with us. Many auditoriums charge silly prices for sandwiches, not here – we thought three pounds was not unreasonable. Programs are not really useful for boat dwellers and are often ten to twenty pounds – here it was two pounds fifty. Beside another choir member had a medical dog with smashing boots on.





No photography signs didn’t stop me asking the lady who was pointing out seats to patrons. Its just one for the blog “Of course you can, but I didn’t see you...........” Bear poses. WOW. The two circle boxes each side of the extended stage would fill with members of the choir.



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Conductor: Brett Weymark – brilliant. Conductor, Signing Choir: Alex Jones – passionate. Trumpet: Paul Goodchild – incredible.



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Soprano: Rachelle Durkin. Alto: Louise Callinan. Tenor: Jonathan Abernethy. Bass: Rodney Earl Clarke.

This young, talented line up did a fantastic job to raise the solos to the right height. I did keep wondering that in twenty years’ time the increase in power, timbre and resonance would make each of them world renowned.




Also the Christmas Choir, the Symphony Chorus, the Signing Choir [at the front] and of course the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra. There were thirteen in the Signing Choir, their conductor – deaf from birth gave such a enthusiastic performance, it was a first for us. Prior to now we have seen people signing from one side of the stage but today it was part of the performance. It did take a little getting used to but by the second act it was quite normal and didn’t take from the overall effect. One of the boxes above and to our left was filled with deaf and limited hearing people. It was a joy to watch their intent faces as they too were swept up in the wonder of it all. It was lovely at the end when all the musicians and choirs raised their hands and waggled as a sign of applause, the audience did too, so moving.

We did all stand for the Hallelujah Chorus. The story goes that King George II was supposed to have been so moved by “for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” that he leapt to his feet mid-performance, and when the monarch stood the protocol of the day demanded that everyone else stand too. The story has flaws – there is no evidence that George II ever attended a Messiah performance, and the first record of the audience standing “together with the king” comes from 1760, by which time both Handel and George II were long dead. The lady next to me asked if I knew why we stood, after I told her she thought for a moment and decided it was nothing more than the king being nipped by his tight trews around the nether region forcing the leap out of nothing more than a comfort break.......... got to love Australian humour.





After the performance sadly came to an end, the Hallelujah Chorus bringing out the goose-bumps, we bimbled out of the side door and into the sunshine before heading back to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the other side. The great chunks of Hawkesbury sandstone reminding us of the schist rock in New York. Abutting the site of the first settlement of Europeans in Australia at Sydney Cove, the Sydney Opera House stands on Bennelong Point, Aboriginal land which was named after a Wangal Aboriginal man and which is of significance in the history of the entanglements and interactions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures in Australia. Other historic themes associated with the site include the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove, scientific investigation, defence, picturesque planning, marine and urban transport and most recently, cultural showcasing. Since its official opening by the Queen in 1973, the Sydney Opera House has been the scene of many notable achievements in the performing arts and has associations with many nationally and internationally renowned artistic performers. The Sydney Opera House provides an outstanding visual, cultural and tourist focal point for Sydney and Australia. We are so going to love exploring this city.

Time to leave, but not before a quick look at Sydney Harbour Bridge.  








                    REALLY, REALLY EXCITING