George Frideric Handel: The People that Walked in Darkness

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

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, and they that

Dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined

(Isaiah 9:2)


The Music

Carrying on in the same key of B minor, this bass aria acts as an extension of the previous accompagnato (even though the words are from another chapter of Isiah). The darkness that is spoken about is represented by the bass and the celli in unison, which creates a dark timbre, perfect for representing a foreboding atmosphere. Handel uses irregular phrases throughout to create the uneven steps of the people as they walk into this foreboding darkness. There is a benchmark of intensity throughout, but as the second verse is sung this becomes much more apparent. The shadows of death are upon the people, and the bass and celli unite again to represent the atmosphere created. The aria ends with another passage of the lower strings and bass together, before the orchestra play the theme once more before ending strongly on a B minor chord.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

Image Source


You might also enjoy… Project Messiah


Recommended Recordings:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *