Friday March 25, 2016

Messiah Revealed

Portrait of George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, 1726 - 1728.

Portrait of George Frideric Handel by Balthasar Denner, 1726 - 1728.

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

Handel's Messiah is possibly the most famous and popular piece of classical music of all time. Yet it's full of secrets and surprises -- it wasn't actually meant for Christmas and its words are largely drawn from the Old Testament, not the New. And the Crucifixion isn't central. Ivars Taurins is the founding director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, and has conducted Messiah over 200 times. Robert Harris is a veteran CBC Radio producer. In nine movements, they reveal the hidden treasures of this celebrated piece.  **This episode originally aired December 8, 2015.


In the middle of November 2010, shoppers at a food court in Welland, Ontario were taking a lunch break during their pre-Christmas shopping. And then, unexpectedly, a young woman stood up at her table, cell phone to her ear, and started singing.

Beginning one of the most famous flash mobs in history – the YouTube video of this encounter has been seen over 47 million times. The choir is singing what may be the most famous piece of classical music of all time, the Hallelujah Chorus by George Frederic Handel.


Watch the video


The Hallelujah Chorus is the high point of Handel's 1741 oratorio, Messiah, now a musical staple all over the world. At Christmas, it'll be performed hundreds of times in Canada alone, by professional orchestras, amateur choirs, and small church groups, in performances big and small, polished and rough. But what is it about the Messiah that has made it so popular?  How is it that this 18th century piece still resonates so powerfully in the 21st? What is the mystery of Handel's Messiah?


Music featured in the program:

Hallelujah Chorus, from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Sinfonia, from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Sinfonia from the CD Handel Messiah by the Huddersfield Chorus.

O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

And He Shall Purify from the CD Handel Messiah. by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Pifa from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Glory to God from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Rejoice Greatly from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Behold the Lamb of God from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

He Was Despised from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir.

Thy Rebuke Has Broken His Heart from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Thou Shalt Break Them from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Hallelujah Chorus from the CD Handel Messiah by the London Philharmonic, Sir Thomas Beecham.

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. 

Amen from the CD Handel Messiah by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir.