About the Concert 节目简介

What Do You Know about Handel’s Messiah?

1. Was it first performed at Christmas?

No. Handel’s Messiah was given its premiere in Dublin in 1742 at Easter and the London premiere took place a year later. This English oratorio consists of three parts. The first part covers the birth of the saviour of humankind, the second part covers Christ’s passion and his death, and the last part concludes with the final victory over sin and death. The oratorio is popular during both Easter and Christmas time.

2. Is this masterwork written at the composer’s peak?

Handel took up permanent residence in London in 1712 when he was 27. While he was writing music for the Royal family, he also presented many operas at London’s theatres. However, the Italian-style operas he created gradually went out of fashion. After receiving the text of Messiah from his friend, librettist Charles Jennens, Handel completed the work in less than a month. The first performance in Dublin received a warm reception but the London premiere did not bring the same result. In 1750, however, Handel assigned the rights of Messiah to the Foundling Hospital and the benefit concert was a great success. The custom of standing during the Hallelujah Chorus began when King George II did so at the London premiere in 1743, which obliged all in the audience to stand as well.

3. Was Messiah composed for a giant choir?

No, the original performances were small. However, there was a mixed choir of ten thousand members that performed in a Boston concert in 1869. Another record was a choir of nearly three thousand singers that performed it in a concert in London in 1859, commemorating the 100th year since Handel’s death. Mozart arranged Messiah to fit the orchestra and choir of his time. The choir size of that version’s first performance was around 300 singers. However, the number of singers in the premiere was only 18!

三个《弥赛亚》的谜思 ......

1. 《弥赛亚》在圣诞节首演?

不是。这部神剧于 1742 年的复活节在都柏林首演。三个部份分别描述耶稣降生、基督受苦与死亡,以及复活与审判。所以,圣诞节和复活节都常常可以欣赏到《弥赛亚》。

2. 《弥赛亚》是作曲家如日中天之作?

刚好相反。1712 年,二十七岁的韩德尔初到伦敦,除了为皇室创作音乐外,也写了多出歌剧。可是,日子久了,他的意大利风格歌剧续渐失去支持。幸好友人珍宁斯送来《弥赛亚》的文本,让他全情投入创作并以二十多日便完成这套神剧。首次在都柏林的演出大获好评,可惜在伦敦的首演却未如理想。直至 1750 年为育婴堂的筹款收益而演出,作品始获得空前成功。这出神剧不单得到平民的热爱,连国皇乔治二世听到〈哈利路亚〉〉也肃然起敬,站立鼓掌,更令韩德尔攀上事业高峰。

3. 作品是为超大型合唱团而写?

据说 1869 年在波士顿的和平纪念音乐会中,由一万人组成的合唱团演唱了这套名曲。1859年,伦敦的「韩德尔逝世一百周年」音乐会,有近三千人的合唱团演唱了此曲。而在莫扎特新编的《弥赛亚》中,首演时合唱团人数也近三百!不过,韩德尔原版的《弥赛亚》,首演的合唱团只有十八人。

Handel’s Messiah

Colin Touchin

Traditions that last over 250 years provide powerful spiritual cement in our communities: annual performances of the whole - or parts - of Handel’s Messiah have become one of the most common, reliable and uplifting ways in which singers, players and music-lovers gather to share the joy of music-making, of the spiritual seasons of Christmas and Easter, and of much more besides.

From the first performance in 1741 to today, some 278 years later, more renditions will have been given of this work (or sections from it) than of any other composition from the Western canon of “classical” music, easily out-stripping, say, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and, Pachelbel’s Canon! To imagine the number of performers who have contributed to these public displays of musical delight we might calculate an average per event, suggesting that now several millions of performers in probably over a hundred countries have provided their listeners with entertainment, education and elevation through this extraordinary music.

What is it about this work which has so captivated singers, players, and listeners? Aside from the romantic stories behind its origins and the super-fast composition period of just 3 weeks for over 150 minutes of music (although some sections were re-cycled in the typical manner of the 18th century), there is a delicate and highly effective balance between solo arias and choral sections of varied intensity and rhythmic excitement. Even short extracts and ad hoc sequences of just a few numbers drawn out of the whole 53 movements (though that number can vary according to different editions) can have a dramatic impact on listeners, so refined and direct is the musical and emotional language employed by the composer. It is mostly the magic of the musical composition which carries the eager, innocent and knowledgeable listeners alike along the path of entertaining enlightenment; although the libretto, drawn from Biblical texts by Charles Jennens, intrinsically provides much comfort and inspiration, too.

For solo singers, there are some of the finest, sustained and expressive arias of the whole Baroque period, featuring slow, thoughtful and impassioned lines alongside lively and exciting runs of impressively articulated notes. For chorus singers, there are sufficiently varied slow and quick passages to maintain interest and challenge (even over a 50-or-more-years-long choral career) including homophonic block chordal sections as well as fugal and canonic movements of intricate and skillful composition. For orchestral players the music sets constant demands for refined technique, awareness of performance style and precision between colleagues; even after many years and dozens of performances players can find satisfaction in a well-rehearsed and well-intentioned interpretation. Whereas for conductors the music is simply so well written, with so many variations of time-signature and rhythmic elements, mood and compositional construction, as to provide, always, plenty of individual freedom in decisions of tempo, dynamic and phrasing whilst never losing its power to surprise, delight and engage the creative juices.

Perhaps above all, for the thousands upon thousands of listeners world-wide, the music of Handel’s Messiah continues to fascinate, intrigue and amaze us: we can never get tired of listening to the subtle ways in which the voices blend with the instruments, how the contrapuntal passages unwind with apparent inevitability and simplicity, and how we are led through the great religious story with unwavering conviction and passion.

Did all this ingenuity then appear only in this one work of Handel’s or of the Baroque era? Indeed not, as there are, of course, many great works in his catalogue and in those of other leading composers of the day. But the scale of this work, in three parts to reflect the division of the stories from the Bible, and the refinement of every section moulded to the overall design, maintaining consistency of message and material, has confirmed it as one of the outstanding masterpieces of all time. However often we perform or hear it, we can always find something great and wonderful in the music and words of this finest of oratorios.







A Holy Child Is Born

Lesley Chan

I am delighted to be one of the performers at this year’s Christmas Concert. The joint choir for this year’s College Christmas Concert features more than 200 secondary students from eight schools, including Belilios Public School, Carmel Pak U Secondary School, Heep Yunn School, HKUGA College, Law Ting Pong Secondary School, SKH Bishop Hall Jubilee School, St. Paul’s College and Wah Yan College, Kowloon. Each of them has participated in various local and overseas performances. They are going to give the premiere of A Holy Child Is Born which I have arranged. The surround sound of the beautiful melodies and harmonies will fill up the hall of the College with joy and fun!

This special arrangement of some popular carols is one of my recent works. I am so glad that I am not only having the privilege to arrange this medley but also to conduct such a big youth choir to premiere my own work at Christmas. I hope that our singers in this joint choir will ‘sing at ease’ - to enjoy the beautiful melodies and festive atmosphere set by the music. There are no complicated rhythms but interesting imitations between different vocal parts. I hope the singers will be amazed by this setting. This arrangement includes four familiar carols such as ‘The Three Kings’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. The audience will hear the tunes in a ‘chronological’ way - as if the singers were telling the Nativity story. You are cordially invited to join in the “Messiah, Encore!” on Christmas Eve to celebrate the festive season! See you there!