George Frideric Handel: There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field

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

There were shepherds, abiding in the field,

Keeping watch over their flocks by night.

(Luke 2:8)


The Music

Accompanied by a sustained chain of organ chords, There were Shepherds Abiding in the Field takes its words from the book of Luke. Handel uses a solo soprano to perform this incredibly short recitative. This is the first time the soprano soloist graces the stage, as Handel keeps the voice for this pinnacle moment in the oratorio. Some years before, J.S. Bach did exactly the same thing in his Christmas Oratorio. The delicate voice creates a mysterious atmosphere with the foreboding organ accompanying. This recitative segues straight into the next section that features the orchestra and soprano soloist.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Project Messiah


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