The Tradition Continues: Handel’s Messiah at Segerstrom Concert Hall

By Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.
December 3, 2021 Updated: December 3, 2021

After two consecutive years of cancellation due to COVID-19 concerns, Handel’s Messiah returns to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Dec. 5 at 3:00 pm featuring the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale conducted by maestro Robert Moody.

Handel’s Messiah is perhaps one of the most widely played pieces around the world during the Christmas season, and is historically one of the most popular oratorios—that of a musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists.

“Each year, Pacific Symphony presents Handel’s Messiah and, without fail, the concert sells out,” president and CEO of Pacific Symphony John Forsyte told The Epoch Times.

“I believe the reason for this is not only the subject matter, which was described by the librettist Charles Jennens as ‘a meditation of our Lord as Messiah in Christian thought and belief,’ but the fact that the music is so inspired,” said Forsyte.

Joining the Pacific Symphony on the regal Renée & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall stage will be 200 singers of the renowned Pacific Chorale.

In addition to a long-standing partnership with Pacific Symphony, the Chorale has performed with such iconic American ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, National Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, to name just a few.

Four prominent vocal soloists will round out the oratorio and include soprano Mary Wilson, countertenor Logan Tanner, tenor Taylor Stayton, and baritone Theo Hoffman.

Handel was a devout Christian and Messiah reflects his deep faith in God. He chose scripture from the King James Bible as the text of the chorus.

Forsyte explained how Handel wrote the 259-page score with “blazing intensity” in just 24 days, an astoundingly short period of time in which to produce such an achievement.

“Every aria or chorus contains music which beautifully frames the text and leaves you with a strong impression,” said Forsyte.

Thirty years after Handel’s death in 1759, even Mozart paid the great composer high compliment when he re-orchestrated Messiah in 1789, confessing himself to be humble in the face of Handel’s genius, insisting that his alterations to Handel’s score was not meant to improve the music.

“Handel knew better than any of us what will make an effect,” Mozart once said. “When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt.”

Epoch Times Photo
Handel’s Messiah is performed in 2016. (Courtesy of Pacific Symphony)

From Lent to a Christmas Tradition

Messiah’s popularity as a holiday tradition originally began as a performance during the season of Lent in celebration of Easter.

Messiah was composed by German-born English composer George Frideric Handel, with lyrics compiled by Charles Jennens, a friend of Handel’s and a wealthy patron of the arts. The piece debuted on April 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland during Lent, to great acclaim.

“While [it’s become] a Christmas tradition, only the first third of Messiah is about the birth of Jesus. The second part is about his death, and the third is about his resurrection,” Forsyte explained.

“Messiah’s premiere during Lent suggests it was intended as a work for Easter, but perhaps, out of necessity, it became a Christmas tradition because so few works exist in the orchestral/choral repertoire [that] observe Christmas, but there are many great choices for Easter,” said Forsyte

One of the great moments in Messiah is the inspirational “Hallelujah Chorus” which concludes the second of three parts of the performance.

Although there is much speculation as to how the tradition began, during the chorus it is traditional for the audience to stand as the choir begins singing “Hallelujah!” and remain standing throughout the entire composition.

Legend has it that for reasons still being debated, King George II was so moved and overcome by emotion during a performance of “Hallelujah Chorus” that he stood to his feet, which then required his subjects followed suit. The tradition continues with audiences still rising to stand in reverence during the powerful and moving piece.

“We are pleased to be back in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for our first performance of the Messiah since 2019, and grateful to Mark Chapin Johnson for sponsoring the concert,” Forsyte noted.

For tickets and more information, visit www.pacificsymphony.org. Segerstrom Hall guests are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the performance, and masking is required during the concert.

Lynn Hackman
Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.