The music for Messiah was composed in the summer of 1741 during 24 sleep-deprived / creative-manic / heavenly-inspired days by George Frideric Handel. At the end of his 259 page manuscript Handel penned the letters “SDG”—Soli Deo Gloria;
“To God alone the glory”
Over the next two weeks I will be experiencing my own sleep-deprived / creative-manic / heavenly-inspired days being sequestered nightly, and all day Saturday, and part of Sunday in the Tabernacle on Temple Square while participating in an historic recording of Handel’s masterpiece.
Handel himself acknowledged, and history confirms that this composition was – and remains – a true miracle.
Four years earlier, after pushing himself to his physical limits by composing four operas within 12 months, the 52-year-old composer suffered a stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. A doctor told Handel’s faithful secretary:
“We may save the man—but the musician is lost forever. It seems to me that his brain has been permanently injured.”
Handel defied the diagnosis and sought treatment in the thermal springs at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen, Germany). He recovered his physical strength, and his ability to use his hand & play an organ again which had not been thought possible. But, upon return to England he faced more trials with financial failure and an emotional breakdown. In the summer of 1741 Handel was just about the farthest away from being able to create anything worthwhile. And he knew it. During his lifetime, Handel composed nearly 30 oratorios and close to 50 operas. He was also a prolific writer of orchestral pieces and concerti grossi. And yet, he would be remembered for none of those. Instead, it was an oratorio that rose from the ashes of his life that would make all of the difference.
Upon completing his composition, he humbly acknowledged,
“God has visited me.”
– Stefan Zweig, The Tide of Fortune: Twelve Historical Miniatures (1940)
Messiah was, and remains, a glorious miracle.
For the next few days and nights I shall be channeling my inner Handel!
- Consumed with the process of making a lot of exceptional music in a very little amount of time
- Forgoing sleep
- Hearing melismas and random melodic passages replaying over and over [and over and over] in my brain (dubbed “ear worms”, by my friend Karen)
- Praying for guidance and sustenance
But, if I am truly in tune to the spirit of Handel, then perhaps I shall receive my own gift of personal healing, and a glimpse of the divine.
Before, during, after, and always, to sing Handel’s Messiah I must proclaim “Soli Deo Gloria!” – To God alone, the glory. – MoSop
Surely, He Hath Borne Our Grief