George Frideric Handel wrote several oratorios, highly dramatic works for vocal soloists, choir, and orchestra, based on Biblical stories. In most of them there are strong characters who interact throughout the piece. But Handel’s most popular work, Messiah, is not a typical oratorio: there are no confrontations between set characters, and no clear plot line. “The nativity story is presented mostly through Old Testament prophecies, with some New Testament narrative. Librettist Charles Jennens compiled the text for Messiah from biblical verses and organized the work into three parts: the prophecy of the birth of a messiah and the Incarnation, the Passion and the Resurrection, and Christ’s glorification in Heaven.

“The iconic “Hallelujah” chorus does not celebrate the birth of Christ as so many believe, but instead occurs at the end of the second part, as a celebration of the Resurrection and ascension. This chorus has always been an audience favorite. It is still customary for audiences to stand during the “Hallelujah” chorus, a tradition that began before 1780 and is popularly attributed to King George II who reputedly stood during the chorus at an early London performance.” (Emily C. Hoyer)

Handel composed Messiah in twenty-four days for the Charitable Musical Society of Dublin. Its premiere performance on 13 April 1742 supported three charities: the Society for Relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary, and Mercer’s Hospital. “English oratorio performances in this era often aligned with community charity efforts; these un-staged musical settings of religious stories provided an edifying alternative to opera for entertainment during the Lenten season. Annual benefit performances of Messiah for London’s Foundling Hospital from 1750-1777 helped establish its central place in British repertoire.” (Emily C. Hoyer)

As in Handel’s time, we too will present a benefit performance of Messiah. The choir will sing Part One of this amazing work at Music Sunday on December 10. The Special Collection will be used to sponsor several families who are refugees from around the world, and are seeking political asylum in the Newton area. FUUSN has recently joined the Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM), and its Newton-Brookline cluster of six churches and synagogues. Forty FUUSN members have volunteered for this project, offering services like babysitting, rides, ESL, work mentoring, publicity, etc. Currently, families Cameroon and Ecuador are being sponsored, and a family from Uganda has already “graduated” to work and independent living in Worcester. Three families at FUUSN have offered housing for six months to a year so that additional families can be accepted.

Tax deductible checks should be made out to the Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM), and the collection will pay for food and other necessities for these refugee families. Please put “Newton-Brookline cluster” on the memo line of your check. Thanks so much for supporting this wonderful project!