WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH DIRECTIONS Performed 6:30 pm Sunday, December 22, 2013
General Admission Seating
NEAL GITTLEMAN conductor
DAYTON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
DAYTON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CHAMBER CHOIR
HANK DAHLMAN director WEBSITE CAITLIN CISLER soprano
RYU-KYUNG KIM alto
IAN JOSÉ RAMIREZ tenor
KENNETH STAVERT baritone
It was 1741, and George Frideric Handel was drowning…financially and artistically. Two operas that he had recently written had flopped miserably, and it appeared that he would have to leave England. He needed a savior in the worst of all possible ways. A former collaborator advised him to drop opera for the oratorio form. That, coupled with an invitation from an Irish politician to participate in a sort of oratorio festival, led Handel to join with his collaborator friend and compose an oratorio about the birth and passion of Christ. Friendly advice and a timely invitation proved Handel’s salvation, making the name of the oratorio he’d composed, Messiah (which means "savior" or "liberator"), quite appropriate.
It seems eerily fitting that Messiah, Handel's first sacred, nondramatic oratorio, was the harbinger of his spate of oratorios that dealt with dramatized Old Testament stories or Christian writings dating from the early centuries of the Common Era that are not included in the Bible. Some critics believe that Handel allowed opera to influence the composition of Messiah, a theory that seems to enjoy historical confirmation; in Handel’s time, orchestras, soloists, and choirs performed Messiah in theaters more often than in churches. In three parts, Messiah relates the prophecy of a savior and his coming (e.g., "Behold, a virgin shall conceive;" "For unto us a child is born;" "Rejoice greatly"), his passion and resurrection (e.g., "And with His stripes we are healed;" "Hallelujah"), and his role in eternal life after death (e.g., "I know that my Redeemer liveth;" "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain").
Although this work speaks directly to the gospel message that the passion and resurrection celebrated at Easter make it the most important part of the church year, Handel’s Messiah finds eager acceptance at Christmas as well. With no distinguishable characters, the drama relies entirely on the communication of the story of Christ in words, as well as in the powerful, emotionally stirring, and at times heartbreakingly beautiful music of a composer for whom the oratorio proved a personal salvation.