Hallelujah! It's 'Messiah' time

The singing of Handel's "Messiah" is not to be attempted without preparation worthy of a triathlete.

I learned this in rude fashion a few years ago when I innocently joined in one of those popular "Messiah" singalongs. "Come on, it'll be fun," said friends whose musical skills were considerably more developed than mine. I had sung the "Hallelujah Chorus" in high school and had heard "Messiah" performed many times, so I figured I could just "sight read." I was soon tossed aside like a swamped surfer. An ocean of voices swept past me while I tumbled out of control amid waves of surging 16th notes.

Someday, I'll go into training and enjoy the special joys of singing this singular work. But for now, I confine myself to listening: Give me a small chorus or large, period or modern instruments, an amateur group or a major symphony orchestra. I'm there. A live performance is best, but a radio or TV broadcast or a recording will do just fine, too.

Should "Messiah" be sung by boy sopranos instead of women, for authenticity? Should the audience stand for the "Hallelujah Chorus"?

These kinds of issues don't concern me. This year the text, taken from the Bible, speaks with particular eloquence, in words such as:

" 'Comfort ye, my people,' saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem and cry unto her, that her warfare be accomplished....

And "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

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