|George Frederick Handel|
By Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) (Unknown) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
We managed to find seats in the crowd, and as we looked around, it seemed we were the only ones who brought music. That's right. I have my own copy--the complete vocal score. I've sung parts of the Messiah with not-so-famous choirs, and even sang a solo: No. 9 -- Air for Alto. Catchy title, huh? Maybe better known as: "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion."
Although I have listened to and sung parts of the Messiah, I have yet to fully appreciate the entire oratorio, not because it's weird or strange, but because I have not immersed myself in it enough to absorb it. I do, however, appreciate the history of its inspired composition.
George Frederick Handel had five failed operas in a row, then decided to use the Bible for his next work. Biblical characters could not be portrayed on stage--it was forbidden--so he composed the oratorio for performance without acting.
On the back of the sing-along program was this information: Handel wanted to compose music for the middle classes, but it was difficult to gain their enthusiasm for this serious music. He once told an aristocratic admirer, "I should be sorry if I only entertained them: I wish to make them better."
Handel composed the Messiah in twenty-four days. Astounding. He secluded himself in a small room of his London residence and composed day and night, often skipping meals. He later said, "Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote, I know not." A visitor reported to have found the trembling composer sobbing with intense emotion, and after the "Hallelujah Chorus" his servant is said to have seen tears streaming from Handel's eyes. "I think I did see all Heaven before me," Handel later confessed, "and the great God Himself."
At the sing-along, as the orchestra played the opening overture, I closed my eyes and listened to the uplifting music and wondered, where are the inspired artists now? Where are the heavenly inspired composers, painters, filmmakers?
I know the heavens are not closed. God loves all His children, not just those of days gone by. I've reflected on this over the past week, since listening to such exquisite music, and I think the key is that many of the artistic masters we admire were not creating for a profit. They were not creating to please the market. They were not composing, sculpting, or painting for the big bucks. They created for their Creator, and they sought to use their God-given gifts to improve mankind.
Inspired artists surely exist today. But we won't find them producing for and to the mass market. And we won't find them pushing the envelope of crudeness, vulgarity, and immorality. Like Handel, such inspired artists, I'm certain, are not creating to entertain, but to make us better.