The great Hallelujah Chorus was written some 250 years by George Frederic Handel. It is worth noting that Handel’s brilliant “Messiah” containing over 2 and a half hours of music was written in a mere 24 days.
If you haven’t seen this video recorded at in Welland, Canada, it is a must see. It was shot in a mall in Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2010. I would be surprised that it doesn’t hit 50 million views by Christmas day.
According to a USA Today survey last week, the biggest anxiety of the Christmas season is money for gifts and not having enough of it . Handel was experiencing financial difficulty himself, on the verge of bankruptcy when he wrote the Hallelujah Chorus. When his operas began to fail, Handel sank into despair, believing that his life and career were over. During this dark period, Handel was commissioned by a Charity in Ireland to perform a new Oratorio. Choosing text and themes from Scripture, Handel composed in his little London house on Brook Street with super-human zeal and energy. This was almost two hundred years before Dickens would write The Christmas Carol. Those who witnessed it thought Handel was mad or under a spell. A servant reported that Handel seldom ate or slept. The trays of appealing food were left outside his door with plates and bowls largely untouched. Handel later confided that he worked with such frenzied fever that his fingers could no longer hold the pen. When he finished not only the score and orchestrations, he reportedly sobbed to his servant “I think that I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself!”
In the grip of divine and frenzied inspiration, Handel created one of the world’s great masterworks — Part I in six days, Part II in nine days, and Part III in six days. The orchestration took him only three days. The finished product was two-and-a-half hours of the world’s most magnificent music, all composed in less than a month.
At the premiere in Dublin, in 1742, the Messiah was pronounced a masterpiece. It recounts the prophecies of Christ and his triumphant birth, with dramatic passages like, “For unto us a child is born . . . and the government shall be upon His shoulders.” And “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God . . . the Prince of Peace.” I didn’t realize this until much later in life that those words came verbatim from Isaiah 9:6-7. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Jewish Prophet Isaiah prophesized about the unborn child of God
Is there a soul so world-weary that it cannot be stirred by the mighty “Hallelujah Chorus”? You always stand when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung. It has been a tradition now for almost three centuries. I remember standing for the first time when Miss Dallas, my third grade teacher, kicked me in the leg at the Cleveland Philharmonic. I thought it was an odd thing to stand for The Lord outside of church but have been doing it ever since. It was King George at the London premiere who set the tradition in action. The King was so moved by the “Hallelujah Chorus” that he spontaneously rose from his seat, and the entire audience followed his example.
It is a testament to faith and to Handel that the 24 days in his life produced music that is been sing now for centuries. In this Christmas season, it is a lesson to all of us that an enduring gift doesn’t require great finance or much time when God is in the midst of the moment.