Here’s a quick tutorial on Christmas:
Definition – “Christ’s Mass”; a holiday to memorialize the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity.
Meaning – the celebration of God coming into the world in human form to do penance for mankind’s sins.
Impact – Each year, Christmas and Easter are the periods of highest church attendance.
Decorations – Greenery, such as branches from evergreen plants, ivy, and holly; nativity scenes; the traditional colors of green (symbolizing eternal life) and red (symbolizing the blood Jesus shed at his crucifixion); and the evergreen Christmas tree, which keeps its leaves in the winter.
Songs – Christmas carols, which first appeared in English in 1426, and completely secular Christmas seasonal songs that emerged in the late 18th century. (Deck The Halls and Jingle Bells).
Meals – A traditional Christmas family meal with each country having its own, special menu.
Cards – the first commercial Christmas card dates from 1843 in London.
Figures – Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus; Père Noël; the Wiehnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.
Writings – Clement Moore’s poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) and Charles Dickens’s novel A Christmas Carol (It’s where the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ comes from).
Here endeth the tutorial.
DPO and the DPO Chamber Choir will present Handel’s Messiah
December 11 at 4pm
Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 North Wilkinson Street
Religious holidays such as Christmas have always inspired the composition of sacred songs and hymns for use in church services. For example, in 1741, George Frederick Handel composed an oratorio for another church holiday – Easter. Handel was a German composer, who received his musical training in Italy and spent most of his life in England.
A bit of a loose cannon, Handel – eighteen and frustrated with the musical chauvinism where he lived, actually dueled with another composer over opera music. Eventually, he became become court composer, and his patron at court, the Elector of Hanover, became King George I of England. A few years later Handel recognized his chance and moved to England. Permanently.
The sacred, non-dramatic oratorio he had written for Easter was entitled Messiah.
Here’s a quick tutorial on oratorios:
Embodiment – a large musical composition with arias, performed by an orchestra, a choir, soloists, and various distinguishable characters.
Performance – little or no interaction between the characters; no props or elaborate costumes.
Subject Matter – sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church.
Here endeth the tutorial.
Handel was down on his luck. His last two works, both operas, were duds, and he was ready to chuck it all and head back to Chauvinist heaven when Charles Jennens, a collaborator of his on the oratorio Saul, saved him the bother.
Jennens had written a libretto (text for an extended musical work) based around the birth and Passion of Christ. He gave it to Handel, who wrote a score for it in a little over three weeks. The completed work, text and music, bore the name Messiah.
Messiah has three parts: the Prophecy of the Messiah and its fulfillment, the events from the Passion to the triumph of the Resurrection, and the role of the Messiah in life after death. None of the characters have names. The words express the drama. The Hallelujah Chorus of Messiah has become both a musical, and a spiritual, icon.
Today, orchestras and choruses perform Messiah in churches at Christmas almost as much as at Easter. Why?
Because Christmas, as a religious holiday, has been held hostage. It has become a prisoner of war.
In the U.S. there has been a tendency to replace the greeting Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays. Allegations abound that any specific mention of the term “Christmas” or its religious aspects are increasingly suppressed, avoided, or deterred by a number of advertisers and retailers.
Christmas is typically the largest annual economic stimulus for many nations around the world. Sales increase dramatically in almost all retail areas, and shops introduce new products as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies. In the U.S., the Christmas shopping season starts as early as October. It has been calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season.
Some Christian and non-Christians have claimed all this crass commercialization to be an affront to Christmas.
In several Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Colombia they’ve managed a compromise between religious and secular beliefs. Current tradition maintains that Santa makes the toys, which he then gives to the Baby Jesus to deliver to children’s homes.
In Dayton, no one is making any compromises. At least no one at the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. On Sunday, December 11 at 4pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 North Wilkinson Street, the DPO and the DPO Chamber Choir will present Handel’s Messiah.
Soprano Megan Bell, alto Julia Bentley, tenor Matt Morgan, and bass Curtis Streetman will join DPO Music Director Neal Gittleman and DPO Chamber Choir Director Hank Dahlman for the performance of this revered holiday classic.
And this statement of faith and love at Christmas time, the season of faith and love.