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history of handel's messiah

Rediscovering Handel’s Messiah: An Easter Tradition

Unveiling the historical connection between Easter and Handel’s Messiah

Messiah as a Christmas Tradition

Handel’s Messiah has become a Christmas tradition for many concert-goers throughout the English-speaking world. In Melbourne, we have a choice of Messiahs to attend every year, and you can usually find a sing-along performance, too, if you’re so inclined. So, why would Melbourne Bach Choir want to sing it out of season?

Messiah’s Easter Connection

The truth is Messiah was originally conceived as a work appropriate for Easter. While it contains some beautiful Christmas music in Part I, the oratorio also deals with the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus.

The First Performance

The first performance took place on 13 April 1742 at the New Music Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin. We can gather that performances consistently occurred around Easter throughout Handel’s lifetime.

Dublin’s Historical Reception

The Dublin rehearsals aroused extraordinary interest throughout the city. Such a large crowd was expected at the first performance that ladies were requested to leave their hoops at home and gentlemen to come without their swords. An open-air performance of Messiah is still held every year in Fishamble Street on 13 April (the Music Hall no longer exists).

The Hallelujah Chorus Tradition

A much older tradition than Christmas performances is the habit of audience members standing during the Hallelujah Chorus. This practice stems from Handel’s time when the King was so affected by the music that he stood and remained standing for the whole chorus, leading the audience to stand as well.

Easter Sunday Performance

Our performance of Messiah on Easter Sunday balances the moving St John Passion of Bach on Good Friday and finishes our Easter festival joyfully. We hope to see you there and are happy for you to stand (or not) during the Hallelujah Chorus. However, please leave your hoops and swords at home!

Celebrate Easter with Handel’s Messiah

Join us for a memorable Easter celebration with Handel’s Messiah; a masterpiece brought back to its original season. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to experience the music as it was intended!

🎫 Book your tickets now: BOOK HERE

📅 Easter Sunday, 9 April at 7 pm

📍 Melbourne Recital Centre