Me and Handel’s Messiah

I went to listen to a performance of Handel’s Messiah at Leeds Minster on Good Friday. And it was great.

It is a piece of music I have some history with.

During GCSE Music we ‘did’ The Messiah. I remember vividly being taught about some lines that appear early on;

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain”; 

and how the music is written to reflect the words, such as when the soloist sings “every mountain” his voice soars, or peaks and troughs to reflect the word “crooked”.

I had notes about The Messiah written on scraps of paper blue tacked to the back of the bathroom door.

I think my experience of learning about it put me off.

However at a Christmas in my late twenties or early thirties my family listened to it. And I grew to love it and appreciate it in a way I hadn’t when I was at school.

My new found enthusiasm for it extended to enlisting my family into taking part in The Really Big Chorus performance of it at The Royal Albert Hall on another Christmas.

Learning to sing the alto lines was hugely challenging. I would sit with the manuscript on the bus with it playing via headphones and practice the relevant sections over and over. But despite the challenges it was a very rewarding experience and taught me to understand and appreciate the music in a new way.

I have on occasion completed copies of paintings and it reminded me of that. To get under the skin of a work of art, to appreciate how so many layers come together to form the whole.

This struck me strongly last night. I admired the chorus even more than usual, noting the parts I had found most difficult and marveling at their skill.

The Messiah on Good Friday. Maybe I have started my first Leeds tradition?


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