George Frideric Handel's Oratoria, Messiah ... December 7 and 8, 1984, Jesse Auditorium
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"Annual performances of the oratorio have become an indispensible part of our musical customs. In spite of this, many misconceptions surround it. Although we tend to associate the popular masterpiece with the festival of Christmas, Handel did not write it as Christmas music. In fact, its religious theme notwithstanding, he did not conceive it as a sacred work, but as a theatrical one. Oratorio was not an alternative to a worship service for his English audience, but an alternative to contemporary opera and, as such, was generally heard in public theaters, not in church. We are also accustomed to the musical grandeur produced by several hundred voices and a small orchestra; the proportions of typical performances from Handel's time were precisely the opposite, with approximately twenty-five percent of the musicians being singers and those being boys and men."