Ten Facts about Handel’s Messiah

Along with The Nutcracker, it’s the most performed classical composition during the Holidays. Here are ten facts about G.F. Handel’s oratorio Messiah (not The┬áMessiah).

1. The music was composed in about 24 days, though Handel recycled other works for Messiah.

2. 259: The number of pages in the final manuscript (not without errors and signs of haste).

3. We often hear huge choirs perform Messiah, but at the premiere there were a whopping 32.

4. The premiere was a benefit concert for several charities, including a prison for debtors and a children’s hospital. In fact, 142 prisoners were released because of the donations raised at the premiere.

5. Messiah should really be performed during Lent. It’s premiere took place on April 13, 1742.

6. Mozart first heard Messiah in 1777 in Mannheim. Excerpts were performed in the US in 1770.

7. Handel’s original orchestration only called for strings and continuo, and very little trumpet and timpani.

8. In 1865, Boston held a performance that included over 600 in the chorus.

9. Sir Henry Wood used 3500 singers in the first recording of Messiah in 1926 for Columbia.

10. Sir Thomas Beecham recorded the first complete performance in 1928.

Here our broadcast of Messiah, in its entirety, from Trinity Church, December 24th at 1pm.

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