“Messiah” was composed in 24 days by George Frideric Handel in 1741. The term “Messiah” means the anointed one, and refers to the life of Jesus according to Christian belief. The work covers three areas of the life and death of Jesus consisting generally of the birth and early life, the crucifixion, and the resurrection and promise of eternal life. “Messiah” was first performed in 1742 in Dublin near the Temple Bar district.
The Hallelujah chorus is the most famous movement. It supposedly is based upon three sections from the New Testament, Book of Revelation, as follows:
- And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)
- And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
- And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)
Handel reportedly broke down in tears when he completed the Hallulah chorus, saying that he thought he’d seen the face of God.
Most audiences stand when the Hallujah chorus is performed. The story has it that when King George II of England went to a performance of “Messiah,” he stood up when the Hallelujah chorus began. And the rule at that time was that if the King stands, everybody stands.