Happy 336th Birthday George Frideric Handel!
February 23, 1685 – April 14, 1759
“I thought I saw the face of God.”
Today, February 23, 2021, we celebrate the 336th birthday of George Frideric Handel, the Baroque master composer known for his operas, anthems, organ concertos and oratorios. Handel is forever immortalized for his timeless “Messiah,” written in 1742, performed worldwide for 270 years! The masterpiece has been the staple song in worship services, official ceremonies and celebrations worldwide, especially during Christmas and Easter. "Messiah" is a perpetual voice of the Gospel, reverence, and obeisance to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Future greats - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Joseph Haydn diligently studied his oeuvre.
Handel was born in Halle, Germany, in 1685, and worked at the Hamburg Oper am Gänsemarkt’s orchestra as a harpsichordist and violinist. George met and learned under such famous composers as Christoph Graupner, Reinhard Keiser, and Johann Mattheson. George's father was a barber-surgeon in the court of Saxe-Weissenfels and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. His father wanted him to study law, so George secretly played the clavichord when his family was asleep. Handel’s “Alexander’s Feast,” “Music for the Royal Fireworks, and “Water Music” were famous centuries after his death. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
“I did think I did see all heaven before me,
and the great God himself.”
Originally written as an Easter offering, Messiah was first performed at the Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742, to 700.
The haunting overture: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God," touches the soul deeply, taking us on a journey through the Scriptures, unfolding the Gospel story. The song calls out to anyone ever to experience it, moving one to tears and consolation. Handel lovingly includes the comforting words of Job 19:25-56 in the composition “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."
In an astonishing virtual musical tribute to the King of Kings, the Hallelujah Chorus, performed by over 300 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and over 2,000 voices worldwide, sang virtually from uploaded videos on YouTube.
Messiah sends chills up the spine. When I hear the song, I weep, and I remember the Story. I look for Him and anticipate his glorious appearance. In heaven, the angels sing continuously before the Throne. When recalling the experience of writing the song, Handel said “I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God himself.” I have often imagined what it will be like to be in the choir on that Glorious Day when we sing before our Lord and Messiah! Oh, how I long for that day!
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is
accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of
the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Copyright 2021, William S. Barnett
No portion of this content can be copied, electronically stored, or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.
Portrait of Handel, by Balthasar Denner (c. 1726–1728) - Public Domain, Wikipedia