George Frideric Handel: Surely, He Hath Borne Our Griefs

Messiah Part II


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

Surely, surely, surely he has borne our griefs,

and carried our sorrows; carried our sorrows and our griefs:

yet we esteemed him stricken and smitten by God and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

(Surely, surely)

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

(Isaiah 53:4-5)


The Music

The continuation of Isaiah’s words are now set in F minor. The repeating of the word ‘Surely’ adds emphasis on the meaning of the text, especially after the lengthy He Was Despised. The dotted rhythms are at the centre of this chorus piece as Handel uses them for melismatic effects. The chorus are used as the people watching the events unfold, and this is a very effective way of showing what is happening without using a big production. The colourful key of F minor highlights Handel’s clever orchestrations as the chorus intertwines with the orchestra. As the words of Isaiah come to an end, the orchestra conclude on a perfect resolution.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Project Messiah


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