Isaiah, Good Friday and the Messiah

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Words from the Book of Isaiah—Good Friday, and the Messiah

Join us this Friday, Good Friday 2020, as we conclude our world-wide fast for relief from the COVID-19 pandemic and remember in whose hands we place our trust, the Messiah, by

us this Easter season by celebrating the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah about whom Isaiah wrote so much.

The Messiah is easily one of the world’s most treasured musical works and is an excellent way to prepare for the Easter season. At SearchIsaiah we are pleased to report that this classic composed by George Frideric Handel features the words of Isaiah. More than a quarter of the biblical verses sung are from the Book of Isaiah; and in the coming days and weeks, you can sing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra.

They will present Handel’s beloved oratorio this Thursday, March 22, and Friday, March 23 in the historic Salt Lake City Tabernacle. The program for this performance includes verses from the Old and New Testaments, but to sing along you will need to download the lyrics, but Choir suggests you can plan a Messiah Sing-Along with them on Friday.

Thursday and Friday’s programs explain, “Though the English audiences had for several decades embraced Handel as their favorite composer, that admiration was no guarantee of this work’s success.” Because of the oratorio’s theme, Handel and Jennens, 1741 project, was risky. Some “critics and clergy considered it blasphemous for a ‘theatrical entertainment’ …on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Even more controversially, the lyrics for Messiah were drawn directly from scripture, in a collation by Charles Jennens, an aristocrat and musician/poet of modest talent who had worked with Handel on a couple of earlier oratorios.”

Jennen’s use of scripture, twenty-one verses from the Book of Isaiah, makes the words his, while the music is Handel’s. Together their combined genius makes the Messiah Handel’s most famous work, and in England, the most often performed of any sizable choral work.

“Handel completed the entire score in only 24 days. Enthusiastic romanticists of later eras would attribute this swiftness to divine inspiration, though Handel composed other works of comparable size, more secular …just as swiftly. He was by nature a facile composer. The miracle of Messiah’s composition, then, is not how rapidly Handel wrote the music, but how comprehensively astute, finely detailed, and consistently powerful it is.”

The oratorio was first performed in the spring of 1742 and Handel expected it would always be an Easter performance. In a University of Chicago Divinity School publication, Emily C. Hoyler explained, “It is a work so strongly tied to Christmas that many are unaware that it was originally intended for performance during the Easter season.” She continued that at its April 13th premiere, it “supported three charities: the Society for Relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary, and Mercer’s Hospital.” That

In addition to the two listed live  performances above with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, their website suggests these options:

  • Live Stream: Friday, March 23, beginning with a pre-concert feed at 7:00 p.m. MDT and the full concert at 7:30 p.m. MDT (pre-concert feed length: 30 minutes; concert duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes; total broadcast length: 3 hours).
  • On Demand: Friday, March 23, beginning at the end of live stream-approximately 11:00 p.m.for on-demand viewing at motab.org/messiah until Monday, April 9 at 11:59 p.m. MDT.
  • Church Satellite Broadcast: Various dates in LDS Church buildings with planned events.
  • BYUtv (BYUtv.org): Sunday, March 25, at 3:30 p.m. MDT; Easter Sunday, April 1, at 10:00 p.m. MDT.

Hoyler wrote: “To the present day, orchestrated Messiah “sing-alongs” draw large crowds of non-professional singers, particularly in American and British communities.” At their website, the choir promotes the idea of hosting Messiah Sing-ins at Chapels and private homes. They suggest: “We encourage everyone to plan their own Messiah Sing-Along using the concert live stream or on-demand viewing from our website through Monday, April 9.

“During the last Messiah performances in 2016, more than 170,000 people in over 190 countries around the world joined via the digital stream in their homes with family and friends, or with larger groups in churches, schools, and community centers. Many others joined as their own Messiah events took place using the on-demand internet stream available from the Choir’s website for a limited period following the live performance.

“Check with your local LDS congregation to confirm if an event is scheduled.”

Hoyler concluded, “Messiah has never needed a revival; it has been performed continually since its premiere in various arrangements and contexts all over the world but has found an enduring place in Christmas repertoire.”

Join us this Easter season by celebrating the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah about whom Isaiah wrote so much.

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Darryl Alder is a retired professional, with an adopted family of four, and a lovely wife of 40+years. He has blogged for a variety of sites and loves to bake, garden, camp, and study ancient scripture, all of which is reflected in his posts at AbigailsOven.com, EternalCore.org, SearchIsaiah.org and various Scouting blog sites

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