A guided tour of a masterpiece
Some works of art survive the test of time, touching hearts, minds and imaginations across both generations and cultures. One such work is Handelís Messiah, which was performed for the first time in April 1742 when the composer was 57 years old. It has been performed countless times since, texts of Scripture set to music both stirring and adoring. Within ten years of composing the piece, health problems and deteriorating eyesight would effectively end Handelís work as a composer. He died in 1759.
In Handelís Messiah, Calvin College music professor (emeritus) Calvin Stapert introduces us to Handel, his times, his music and then walks us carefully through the famous oratorio. And when I say he does this for us, I mean non-musicians who love music and want to know more. ďI simply wish,Ē Stapert says, ďto supply some information, explanation, and interpretation that might enhance appreciation of Messiah.Ē He defines musical terms when he uses themóbesides providing a glossaryóand helps us know what to listen for in order to hear Handelís work more fully.
Stapert suggests, and it is a good suggestion, that readers listen to Messiah as they read through the book. I suspect too few of us will do that (I doubt I will), and our lives will be poorer as a result. Good music should not just be on in the background as we drive or exercise or read or work. At times it needs to be the center of attention. To be too busy for good music is to be too busy.
Iím not scolding you. Iím making a note to myself.
Handelís Messiah: Comfort for Godís People by Calvin R. Stapert (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing; 2010) 152 pages + glossary, notes, indices.