A cherished Music City holiday tradition returns to Schermerhorn Symphony Center on December 14-17, as the Nashville Symphony and Chorus and four world-renowned vocal soloists perform George Frederic Handel’s beloved Messiah under the baton of celebrated opera conductor Gary Thor Wedow.
Full of passion, drama and passages of stunning beauty — including the resounding Hallelujah Chorus — Handel’s Messiah is a cornerstone of the Nashville Symphony’s annual holiday programming, attracting thousands of music lovers each year.
Performances are scheduled for:
- 7 p.m. Thursday, December 14
- 8 p.m. Friday, December 15
- 8 p.m. Saturday, December 16
- 3 p.m. Sunday, December 17
To follow are some notes and fun facts about one of the most inspiring pieces of music ever written:
- Though now performed most frequently during the Christmas season, Messiah was actually created for an Easter celebration and premiered in Dublin in 1742 during Lent. The work’s text is based on biblical stories of Jesus, but only the first part of Messiah deals with his birth, while the second and third acts recount the death and resurrection of Christ.
- Audiences have traditionally stood during the Hallelujah Chorus, but how this practice came about is a mystery. Legend has it that King George II of England stood up at the start of the Hallelujah Chorus during the 1743 London premiere, prompting the rest of the audience to follow suit in accordance with royal etiquette at the time.
- Handel wrote Messiah at an incredibly quick pace. He completed the original version in about 24 days, which is even more remarkable given that the original score is nearly 260 pages and contains upwards of 250,000 notes. One music historian has estimated that if Handel worked on Messiah for roughly 10 hours each day over the course of 24 days, he was writing at a continuous pace of roughly 15 notes per minute.
- Messiah might never have been written, had things turned out differently one night in 1704, when Handel was assisting in a performance of Johann Mattheson’s opera Cleopatra. An argument between the two composers escalated into an altercation that spilled onto the street, where both men drew their swords. When Mattheson lunged to strike, his blade broke on a tiny button on Handel’s coat. The two would later reconcile, and that small piece of metal has been called “the button that saved Messiah.”
- The Nashville Symphony Chorus was formed in 1963 in part for the orchestra’s first-ever performance of Messiah, led by music director Willis Page.
Great seats are still available for all four performances of Messiah.
For ticket information, visit NashvilleSymphony.org/Messiah, or call 615-687-6400 buy tickets in person at the Schermerhorn Box Office, One Symphony Place in downtown Nashville.