Chattanoooga Bach Choir and Orchestra Delighting audiences with Classical and Baroque choral music since 1985

Handel’s Messiah: The complete oratorio on April 15

Sunday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m.
First Christian Church / 650 McCallie Avenue
Admission: $20; Students: Free

Bach Choir & Orchestra


Maria Rist, soprano

Jack DuRoy, boy soprano

Blaine Tooley, tenor

Matthew Hoch, bass

Andrea Dismukes, alto

David Long, the Bach Choir’s artistic director, comments, “Handel’s oratorio, Messiah, is among his most popular and enduring works. He became famous for his operas in Italian, but turned his attention to English language oratorios in the 1730’s. Handel composed Messiah in an astounding interlude, somewhere between three and four weeks in August and September 1741. The text was prepared in July by the prominent librettist, Charles Jennens, and was intended for an Easter performance the following year. Jennens wrote to a friend, ‘I hope [Handel] will lay out his whole Genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excel all his former Compositions, as the Subject excels every other Subject.’ The libretto for Messiah is a loosely structured narrative: the first part prophesies the birth of Jesus Christ; the second exalts his sacrifice for humankind; and the final section heralds his Resurrection. Messiah premiered at the Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742 in a performance that benefitted three local charities. In its report on a public rehearsal, the Dublin News-Letter described the oratorio as ‘… far surpass[ing] anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom’. So that the largest possible audience could be admitted, gentlemen were requested to remove their swords, and ladies were asked not to wear hoops in their dresses. The performance earned unanimous praise from the assembled press: ‘Words are wanting to express the exquisite delight it afforded to the admiring and crouded Audience’. Messiah has been a popular success from that moment onward.”

Long continues, “Handel’s Messiah is written in three parts and was never associated with the Christmas season in Handel’s time. Instead, the oratorio was usually performed in Lent (as opera was banned during the penitential season) or in the case of Messiah, the Eastertide season. Jennens’s text is an extended reflection on Jesus as the Messiah called Christ. The text begins in Part I with Old Testament prophecies by Isaiah, among others and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only ‘scene’ taken from the Gospels. In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. In Part III, he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven. Messiah became so popular in the 19th and 20th centuries that it suffered from over the top performances popular at that time. 500 voice choirs and large romantic sized piece orchestras were the norm in England and often in the US as well. The work has also suffered by cutting numerous movements, or by only performing selected portions at certain times of the year. The Chattanooga Bach Choir and Orchestra will perform the work in its entirety with an 18-piece chamber, a 28-voice choir and 5 soloists. Performing the entirety allows the listener to experience the drama as the work is for the theatre not the church. And allows one to experience the musical arc that Handel intended.”

Established in 1985 by conductor James Greasby, the Chattanooga Bach Choir focuses on performing the choral works of Johann Sebastian Bach, in addition to choral-orchestral masterworks of all periods. David Long was appointed artistic director and conductor of the Chattanooga Bach Choir in 2005. During his tenure, he has expanded the programs and repertoire to include a yearly series featuring Bach cantatas and performances of a wide range of music from the past to the present. Over its three decades-long history, the Bach Choir has performed the works of more than sixty composers from the Renaissance to the present, including Josquin, Telemann, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Fauré, Duruflé, Lauridsen, and Gjeilo.

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