The year 1741 was a very depressing one for
George Frideric Handel. His latest opera failed.
His Italian opera company in London was disbanded. That same year Queen Caroline passed away and the commissions Handel had received for composing music for royal occasions all but dried up. A stroke experienced several years prior not only affected him physically, but affected his music.
It seemed as if he had lost the genius that made
his music so popular.
Late that year Charles Jennens, a poet known by
few, sent Handel a manuscript with a request that
Handel set it to music. When Handel read the copy,
the words gripped him. Suddenly he came alive.
Immediately he began to put the words to music.
He labored all through that night and much of the
following day. In fact, he worked day and night
for 22 more days barely stopping to eat or sleep.
When his composition was finished he sensed that
it would be a true masterpiece. His Messiah was
performed the following year and was an immediate
The words that Jennens wrote that inspired Handel
and lifted him out of the pit of despair were
about the Savior: "He was despised and rejected
of men. He looked for someone to have pity on him, but there was no man. He trusted in God. God did not leave his soul in hell. I know that my Redeemer lives. Rejoice. Hallelujah!"
I would dare to suggest that it was the period of
disappointment and despair that prepared Handel
in heart and mind to write this masterpiece of
musical genius. How grateful we are that he
invested his pain wisely.
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