Music News & Reviews

Getting a handle on regional performances of 'Messiah'

It could be easy to think of George Frideric Handel's Messiah as routine, but its ubiquity this time of year is a testament to the work's greatness. And this year it is a bigger deal: It is the 250th anniversary of Handel's death, in 1759.

Many observances were earlier this year, near the actual anniversary, April 14. But we can easily add a layer of significance to the "forever and ever" lyric in the iconic Hallelujah chorus as an appreciation not only of Messiah's title deity but the enduring power of Handel's music.

Who else's two-hour-plus work gets an annual rendition in most cities, and multiple performances in many towns? Is there any piece of music as instantly recognizable as the Hallelujah chorus?

It all gives credence to the assertion by retired Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra music director George Zack that Messiah is "the most creative and inspirational piece of music, or any art, we've ever had in the history of man's creation."

On Dec. 11, the Philharmonic and Lexington Singers will offer their annual performance of Messiah, for the second year under the baton of Singers director Jefferson Johnson.

But first, on Friday night, Christ Church Cathedral offers its rendition of the oratorio with its choirs and the Lexington Bach Society's ensemble.

If a 250th anniversary makes you think it's time to make an event of Messiah, you might like to take a trip go to Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Symphony's performance will be conducted by Nicholas McGegan, who specializes in 18th-century music and has conducted Handel's music throughout the world.

Of course, for many people, Messiah makes them want to sing.

That would make Georgetown College's John L. Hill Chapel the place to be Sunday afternoon for Messiah Sing. This will not be the full work, but beloved selections will be sung with the college's concert choir.