MUSIC AND LITURGY
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2013
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
The hymn “Prepare the way, O Zion,” has been in regular use in the Swedish church for over two hundred years. Its text has deep biblical roots and it is set to a tune of great rhythmic vitality, “Bereden väg för Herran.” The text is built on Isaiah 40: 3-5 (echoed by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel) and the narrative of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21. The hymn was also influenced by a poem by Alexander Pope “Messiah, a sacred Eclogue,” with which it shares a lively, constant present-tense form.
At 11AM, St. Bartholomew's Choir presents excerpts from "Part One" of Handel’s Messiah, subtitled "The prophecy and realization of God's plan to redeem mankind by the coming of the Messiah." The glorious opening chorus of Handel’s oratorio uses the full ensemble to proclaim the Advent prophecy, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 40:5)
Messiah lasts about 2½ hours and was composed in just twenty-four days. Handel wrote it before going to Ireland, where a concert hall was being dedicated with performances of his works. About five months after arriving in Dublin (1742), Handel performed the work to benefit those lingering in debtors’ prisons. Rehearsals attracted wide attention: one newspaper commented that Messiah was thought “by the greatest Judges to be the finest Composition of Musick that ever was heard.” Normally, the concert hall held 600 people; but to increase the capacity, women were asked not to wear hoopskirts, and men were asked to leave their swords at home.