George Frideric Handel: For We Like Sheep

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


All we like sheep have gone astray. 

We have turned every one to his own Way. 

And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 

(Isaiah 53: 6)


The Music

Following on with Isaiah’s text, Handel creates a spritely chorus number. Big intervallic leaps in the bass creates angular shapes for the chorus to sing on top of. Handel uses both unison passages and highly melismatic phrases to create a number of different ‘voices’ within the mix. The quick tempo carries throughout most of this piece, with the voices working hard to create the desired haggard effects. 

A slower section begins after a perfect resolution chord. Initially led by the basses, the key turns minor and all of a sudden there is a dark cloud hanging over the chorus. Sombre in character and the complete opposite of the rest of the piece, this dark and mysterious section leads the once spritely chorus piece to its grisly end.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Project Messiah


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