When I was growing up we attended a church with a large music program, and I first sang in a choir as a young child. In December our minister of music would have all the choirs sing the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
The adult choir was at the front of the church, while the children’s and youth choirs were in the side balconies at to the front. As the first notes of the music began, the congregation stood, and then our combined choirs of all ages sang out the words from Revelation heralding Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”
I was recently reading a 1942 mystery by George Bellairs, The Dead Shall Be Raised, that begins Christmas Eve 1940. Because their flat has been destroyed in the Blitz, Detective-Inspector Littlejohn is traveling to meet his wife in Yorkshire where she has evacuated. On Christmas night they visit the local Methodist church to hear the choir sing Messiah. In Chapter Two, Bellairs captures the evening as the countryside listens.
“From five to six o’clock, the starting-time, a steady procession wound up the hill to the chapel and those from the neighbouring moorland who could not get to town by ‘bus were enthusiastic enough to walk there, for the night of Christmas was fine, sharp and clear and many of them would not feel that a proper Christmas-Day had been spent if it did not end at the chapel Messiah…
“As the lovely overture filled the air, Littlejohn was transported from the hall filled with strangers to the little chapel of his childhood…The ghost of Christmas Past stood by his shoulder. He was roused from his reverie by the tenor solo, which slid easily into its place from the introduction. There was not a vacant seat in the church…The busy chapelkeeper opened one of the doors leading from the vestibule into the main street and the exquisite aria floated out into the still Christmas night and seemed to ring across the moorland beyond. “Every valley shall be exalted and every hill laid low” echoed challengingly in the quiet hills and valleys of the watching Pennines…
“…A heavy, homely woman seated behind Littlejohn murmured in a stage-whisper, “Eh, but it’s luvely. That expressed in simple terms the whole experience.
“…now and then he and his wife exchanged delighted glances. A spirit of ecstatic goodwill filled the place. Glowing, homely faces met his gaze wherever he looked. The weariness of everyday things fell from the countenances of the poor and overworked; the harassed grew calm; the stiffnecked and starchy seemed to relax and shed their pride; and the humble held up their head.”
The tenor solo begins Messiah with these words from Isaiah.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” saith your God.–“Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.”–The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.Isaiah 40:1–2a, 3
Christmas Candle Stars: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications: cropped with “Messiah” wording added.
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