The first time I ever heard Handel’s Messiah was when my sister Bec participated in the oratorio as part of a University of Nebraska choir. I was hooked from the first comfort ye my people. In particular, I found the choruses astoundingly beautiful.
In high school, I was part of a chorus, but it wasn’t really a choice. Music class was a required part of our school’s curriculum, but if it had been a choice, I would have taken the class. I love singing with a choir— always have and always will.
So when I entered the University of Nebraska,I followed in my sister’s footsteps and auditioned for the chorus that performed Handel’s Messiah. To this day I don’t know how I managed to be selected. I can carry a tune — or at least I used to be able to carry a tune; now I just sort of warble. However, I do not purport to have a lovely singing voice. The choir director asked me what part I sang. I said alto, not because I firmly believed I was an alto, but because that’s the part Bec sang. f it was good enough for her, it was good enough for me. After my audition, the director told me, “You passed the audition. I’m not convinced, however, that you are an alto.” But I sang the alto part, and I’ve never looked back.
Saturday night, my birthday gift to myself was a ticket to hear the Colorado Bach Ensemble sing the entire Messiah. Singing the entire oratorio is a Big Deal, because it’s long. Three hours long. It’s divided up into three parts — the birth of Christ, Christ’s passion, and the promise of eternal life.
Since I discovered the Colorado Bach Ensemble, I’ve attended their performances of the Messiah. They are always performed in a church. Two years in a row, the church was near our house. This year they moved to a beautiful old Methodist church downtown, with the huge pipe organ and amazing acoustics. I long ago decided I would only go to the Messiah with someone who loves it like I love it. I have no interest in being with someone who is looking at his or her watch, wishing it was over. Bill always says he’ll go, but he would be looking at his watch. Bless his heart.
Last year I went with my friend Megan, who passed away a few months later. My heart is happy that we attended the performance that she loved like me. This year, I was supposed to go with my sister Jen, but weather got in the way. Or at least we thought it was going to get in our way, but the snow they predicted never materialized in Denver. So she stayed home for nothing.
But I had a great runner-up in the wings. My friend Lynne also performed the Messiah when she was younger, and loves it like I love it. We took Lyft to the church. The downtown church provided for a bit of a different experience. Like the homeless man sitting in the front of the church wearing a Santa Claus hat and quietly directing the orchestra and vocalists. Bless his heart.
Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate not only the music, but the message as well. I am unable to listen to the concluding chorus, Worthy is the Lamb, without crying, partly from its sheer beauty, but mostly from the message that Jesus is the Messiah and died to save us all, an undeniably worthy savior.
It put me in the Christmas spirit, and reminded me of why we celebrate Christ’s birth.