George Frideric Handel: O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion

Messiah Part I


George Frideric Handel’s Messiah has remained one of the composer’s most beloved works. Incredibly, Handel completed this 260-page oratorio in just 24 days during the summer of 1741. The scriptural text was compiled by Charles Jennens, with the source being the King James Bible. The first performance of Messiah was on 13th April 1742, to celebrate Easter. 

Initially the oratorio garnered a lukewarm reception from audiences, however the work began to gain popularity over some years, with it now being the go-to work to perform during the Easter period. During this new Messiah exploration on Classicalexburns, blogs will be posted regularly to cover all of the pieces involved in making up this much-loved oratorio. 


The Lyrics


O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion

Get the up into the high mountain

O thou that good tidings to Jerusalem

Lift up thy voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid.

Say unto the cities of Juda

Behold your God

Say unto the cities of Juda

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion

Arise shine for thy light is come

And the glory of the Lord

The glory of the Lord is risen upon thee


The Music

Certainly one of the more well-known works in the Messiah, O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion shows the good news spreading across the cities. After a short orchestral interlude the solo alto begins the song. The bouncing 6/8 time adds a new dimension to this work that hasn’t been heard yet in the Messiah. The orchestra shadows the melody pronounced by the alto, which becomes the lynchpin of this song. During the central section of the song, the chorus enters in imitation. As more voices are heard the chorus begin to come together and unite to sing through the memorable tune. The intensity picks up as the voices proudly proclaim this news to the nearby cities. As the orchestra and chorus work together to create a wall of sound, the song concludes with a quick recap of the opening material before finishing boldly.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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