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News Archive - April 2012

Subscribe to the St Mary's, Eaton Bray feedMusic at St Mary's: Handel's MESSIAH

George Frederick Handel's 'Messiah'

7.30pm, 19 May at St Mary's, Eaton Bray

Messiah, 19 May 2012

August 22, 1741. An elderly stooped-shouldered man wanders the streets of London; his aimless wandering had become a familiar ritual. His angry mind raced back to memories of great adulation and then looked at a future of seemingly hopeless despair. For forty years the bachelor had written operatic music which was the rave of royalty in both England and the continent. But things had changed quickly and drastically. Members of the royal court reacted strongly to his abrasive manner. Fellow musicians became jealous and bitter and rivals gained success. Finally, a brain haemorrhage had paralyzed his right side. He could no longer write. Doctors gave little hope for his recovery.

The composer had travelled to France to soak in baths rumoured to have miraculous powers. Gradually his weakened muscles had begun to receive new life and, as his health improved, he once again began to write. Soon, his works were again being received with rapturous applause and life seemed good; but fate took a cruel turn. Queen Caroline, who had been a staunch supporter, died. England found itself on hard economic times and his shows were cancelled. Now he found himself wandering aimlessly through the streets.

Having wondered where in the world God was, he wandered back home. Opening his door, he found a wealthy gentleman waiting in his living room; the man was Charles Gibbon. Gibbon explained that he had just finished writing a text for a musical that covered the entire Old and New Testament. He believed that the gifted musician was the man to set it to music. He gave the manuscript to the composer and challenged him to write. As he walked out the door, Gibbon turned long enough to say, 'The Lord gave me those words.'

The great maestro scoffed at the audacity of the young man. No one had ever challenged George Frederick Handel to write something he had not thought of first. Handel's temper was violent and he was a dominating presence among his enemies. Why had Gibbon not brought an opera that was more to his liking?

Indifferently he began to read. Suddenly portions of the passage leaped from the page. His eyes fell on such words as 'He was despised, rejected of men...he looked for someone to have pity on him, but there was no man; neither found he any to comfort him.' His eyes raced ahead to 'He trusted in God...God did not leave his soul in hell...He will give you rest.' And finally the words stopped at 'I know that my redeemer liveth...rejoice...hallelujah.'

He picked up his pen and began to write. Music seemed to flow through his mind as though it had been penned up for years. Putting music to the script, he finished the first part in seven days. The second section was completed in six days and two days were given to fine-tuning the instrumentation. Thus, at the age of fifty seven, Handel completed the Messiah in a mere twenty-four days.

It is with great delight that Handel's masterpiece will be performed at St Mary's Church, Eaton Bray, at 7.30pm on 19 May. The performers include one of the top local choirs, The Linsdale Singers, an orchestra of local musicians and some highly talented young soloists whose voices first developed under the guidance of the Bedfordshire Youth Opera. These soloists already have a wealth of singing experience – the soprano soloist, Hannah Bennett, is a specialist in 'Messiah', the alto soloist, Clare Watson, has had major roles in 'DieFledermaus' and 'The Marriage of Figaro', the tenor soloist, Gordon Hodges, is studying at the Royal Northern College of Music under Peter Wilson and already has had many leading roles in opera and concert, and the bass soloist, Sam Morton, is a choral scholar at Leeds Cathedral and has singing appearances on BBC Radio 2 and 4 and recently sang at Jimmy Saville's funeral.

The performance promises great things. Please come along and enjoy what should be a fantastic evening. Tickets for allocated seats, priced at £7.50, £10 and £12, are available from the Box Office – 01525 222283.

April 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comment

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