by Donna Frisinger

If radio had been invented in 1742, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah would have topped the charts. Composed in only 24 days, Messiah quickly became one of the most celebrated songs in history.

Handel wrote Messiah for Easter, but today it is most often performed during Christmas. In fact, the “Hallelujah” chorus, the most popular section of Messiah, seems to crop up everywhere during the Christmas season.

Born to Create
George Frideric Handel was born on February 23, 1685, in Halle, Germany. From an early age, Handel was considered a musical genius. He mastered the organ at age 7. When he was 11, he performed his first concert for kings and queens. It quickly became clear that God had big plans for young George.

Handel composed many operas and oratories over the course of his life, but Messiah is undeniably his most popular work. Handel’s friend Charles Jennens played a major role in the creation of Messiah. He imagined a composition telling the story of Jesus, and he wanted Handel to compose it.

One day when Handel was composing Messiah, his friends found him weeping. He was overcome with the awesome majesty of God, saying, “I did think I saw all heaven before me and the great God himself.”

Makings of a Masterpiece
Messiah is an oratorio, a large-scale performance including a full orchestra and many vocalists. Before the invention of the printing press, most people did not have access to a Bible, so they learned songs about God instead.

Messiah is the Hebrew word for “the Anointed One,” the promised Savior. The first section of Messiah highlights the Old Testament promises about Jesus and describes His birth. The second section tells of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The final section is about Christ’s Second Coming, as described in the Book of Revelation.

Inspiration to All
Today, we stand in respect when we sing our country’s national anthem. Did you know that people also stand when the “Hallelujah” chorus is performed? It is widely accepted that when King George II of England attended a performance of Messiah, he was so moved by the “Hallelujah” chorus that he rose and bowed his head. Everyone in the audience did the same. To this day, Handel’s Messiah inspires people to rise and honor God’s perfect gift to us, His Son, Jesus Christ.

This story first appeared in the December 2011 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2011 by Donna Frisinger. Photo © St. George's School/Flickr.com; used under Creative Commons license.