Ivars Taurins masquerades as composer G.F. Handel during Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah Photos at left by Gary Beechey

Handel’s Messiah stands the test of time

By  Sarah Florez and Allison Hunwicks, The Catholic Register
  • December 20, 2012

TORONTO - Christmas celebrations are heralded by the senses, and none more so than sound, with music at the heart of almost all of our seasonal memories. Think Bing Crosby crooning “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” or Judy Garland rending heart strings everywhere with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — it doesn’t get more quintessentially “Christmas-time” than that.

However, the undeniable gem of the Christmas music crown is G.F. Handel’s Messiah, a production that is the cornerstone of theatre companies around the globe at Christmas. With its first section heralding the birth of Christ, its timeless appeal also highlights the foundation of the Christmas season for all Christians.

As a testament to its power, the very first production of Messiah occurred almost 300 years ago — on April 13, 1742 at a Dublin, Ireland, charity event. The immensely popular Handel had been approached by the arts patron and librettist Charles Jennens to compose an oratorio on the life of Christ, and Handel, buoyed by the prospect of telling the story through Scripture and music, jumped at the prospect. The resulting piece which has delighted audiences for centuries was composed in just 24 days.

Messiah’s inaugural performance boasted approximately 700 attendees, with ladies wearing dresses “without Hoops” so as to allow more concertgoers space in the crowd. Today, Torontonians can indulge in any number of Messiah’s in almost any style imaginable — in particular, two of our foremost ensembles, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Tafelmusik, each present the oratorio every year and with a world-class lineup of soloists. The TSO has presented Messiah every December since 1932, with The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir providing the choral section. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, under the direction of Ivars Taurins, adds a bit of populist flair with its Sing-Along Messiah directed by “Herr Handel” which has the audience join in as well.

Whichever way you experience it, Handel’s Messiah proves that great compositions will always stand the test of time.

For more information on the TSO’s Messiah, visit www.tso.ca. For more on Tafelmusik’s Messiah, visit www.tafelmusik.org.


In bottom photo gallery, the entire audience joins in under the direction of “Herr Handel” during the Sing-Along Messiah. Conductor laureate Andrew Davis leads the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in their performance of Handel’s Messiah. (First photo by Gary Beechey, second TSO photo by John Loper)


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