|Georg Frideric Handel. Image © PortraitWeb.|
With the start of Hannukah tonight, it's officially the holiday season here in New York City. And that means, no matter where you turn in our fair metropolis, some choral group or orchestra is gearing up to perform the 'Messiah', Georg Friedrich Handel's oratorio turned holiday favorite. Not that that has anything to do with the Festival of Lights, it's just that this year the holiday schedule is really weird.
Messiah was written in 1741 and received its premiere in Dublin, Ireland in 1742. It was the subject of major revisions by Handel, and did not reach its final form until it was performed in 1754 at a benefit for the Foundlings' Hospital in London.
This is Handel's most popular and lasting work. In the context of his long career, Messiah is one of a number of oratorios written by Handel after his Italian operas stopped being popular. The text is drawn almost entirely from the King James Bible.
The work was an instant success after its first London performance, when the 'Hallelujah' Chorus moved the monarch, King George II, to stand up during its performance. When the King stood, the entire audience stood too, and this started a tradition of standing during this chorus that has gone on for over 250 years.
OK. Now that you know the history, here's five recommended New York performances of Messiah. Chronological order:
Dec. 7: St. Thomas' Choir: Messiah
The most famous church choir in New York presents its annual performance of the Messiah. Tickets are available here.
Dec. 12-13: Trinity Church: Messiah
Trinity Church dates from 1697, making it older than Handel's Messiah. Their crack choir sings holiday music by that newfangled young punk Handel. Tickets available here.
Dec. 14-18: New York Philharmonic: Messiah
Bernard Labadie conducts the holiday classic to Avery Fisher Hall. No singing along for this one, but a chance to hear New York's finest orchestra play choral music, something that they're pretty good at. Featuring the New York Choral Artists.
Tickets available here.
Dec. 20: Oratorio Society of New York: Messiah
This Gotham choir has been singing the Lord's praises since 1874. A holiday tradition, presented in the friendly white-and-gold confines of Carnegie Hall. And considering that the Dec. 16 holiday concert featuring the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Deborah Voigt has been cancelled, this is looking like a pretty good option.
Tickets available here.
Dec. 21: National Chorale: Annual Messiah Sing-In
For those of you aching to lift your voice in song, the National Chorale presents its annual holiday performance of the Handel oratorio at Avery Fisher Hall. Scores are provided--it's up to you to be on key.
Tickets available here,