This Week in Christian History: Danish Reformation, Handel's Messiah and Global Ecumenism

Handel Begins Working on Messiah

George Friedrich Handel
George Friedrich Handel (1685-1759), famed composer of "Messiah" and other pieces. |

This week marks the anniversary of when George Frederick Handel began working on what has become one of the most famous musical pieces in western civilization: Messiah.

On Aug. 21, 1741, a friend of Handel's named Charles Jennens sent the composer a compilation of passages from the King James Bible and Anglican Church liturgy that could be put to music.

Twenty-four days later, Handel had completed "Messiah." According to William D. Crump's Christmas Encyclopedia, "the power and majesty of the subject consumed Handel such that he rarely ate or slept."

Selections from "Messiah" continue to be performed to this day, with the "Hallelujah Chorus" probably being the most famous of the songs.

"Legend has it that when King George II first heard the 'Hallelujah' chorus during a performance of Handel's 'Messiah' in London, he stood to his feet in reverence, which thus compelled the rest of the crowd to stand," noted the Southeast Outlook.

"More than 250 years later, crowds still rise to their feet upon hearing the first notes of 'Hallelujah,' often performed by church choirs during Christmas and Easter celebrations."

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