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Handel’s Messiah is 280-years old and still the world’s Christmas favorite

Music sources noted the first performance of Handel’s Messiah took place on April 13, 1742 in Dublin’s newest concert hall at the time. How come it is still the most performed choral masterpiece during Christmas time all over the world until 2022?

Nov 20, 2022

Pablo A. Tariman

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6-minute read

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Music sources noted the first performance of Handel’s Messiah took place on April 13, 1742 in Dublin’s newest concert hall at the time.

Poster of first performance of Handel’s Messiah in 1742. World Heritage photo

How come it is still the most performed choral masterpiece during Christmas time all over the world until 2022?

 “There is nothing more powerful than God’s gift of music in expressing the inexpressible,” said music professor Dr. Lyle Anderson. “Putting truth into a musical context allows it to penetrate the ears, mind and spirit of those who will hear it. It presents the entire story of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and his return through soul-stirring music.”

Poster of CCP 2022 Handel’s Messiah.

 The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra bids a grand farewell to year 2022 with Handel’s Messiah at the CCP main theater on December 16.

With a mammoth choral ensemble composed of 200 singers from various choirs, Handel’s Messiah will once more re-assert itself as the greatest classical treat ever composed for the Christmas season.

The PPO and the 200-member choir will be conducted by Mark Anthony Carpio, conductor and choirmaster  of the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

“It is a tribute to Handel’s genius that 280 years after it was first heard in 1742 in Dublin, music lovers all over the world over the world are still in awe of this magnificent choral piece,” said CCP president Margie Moran Floirendo. “This music which has transcended time should be experienced first-hand by Filipinos as interpreted by Filipino musicians,” she added.

Floirendo noted that the idea for a grand Handel’s Messiah was first brought up by the late CCP president Baltazar Endriga some years back. “The pandemic stalled all the preparations. It is just timely that we are finally mounting this masterwork as our way of celebrating the return of live music at the CCP. It is also a fitting musical offering to thank the Messiah that we all survived the challenges brought about by the pandemic.”

The Messiah has been described as a “grand musical entertainment” during its first few performances during Handel’s time. But the composer said entertainment was not what he had in mind when he composed it. “I want   listeners to feel my message and become better persons.”

Considered one of the greatest Christmas classical music ever composed, The Messiah is naturally a big challenge for conductor Mark Anthony Carpio.

Conductor Mark Anthony Carpio: Handel’s Messiah is the challenge of a lifetime.

The piece is nothing new to him. “In the past, I have prepared choirs for performances of Handel’s Messiah for other conductors. These choirs include the Philippine Madrigal Singers (Madz), chorus classes in the University of the Philippines (UP), church choirs and many others.”

 In the past, he has conducted selected movements from the choral piece mostly the first part, the Advent and Christmas portion ending with the Hallelujah Chorus.

This is the first time Carpio is doing the complete movements of the Messiah with an orchestra lasting more than two hours with him as the only conductor.

 “I believe the challenge in this massive work lies not only in its duration (more than two hours) but in making sure the choir and orchestra understand this magnificent and probably one of the world’s most popular choral works,” the conductor pointed out.

The  members of the 200-member  grand chorus  will come from current members and alumni of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Sing Philippines Youth Choir, Male Ensemble Philippines, Musika Filipina, and different choirs belonging to the different choral network including the  Coro Cantabile, DLSU Chorale, Lighter Side Movement, Novo Concertante Manila, Pansol Choir, Philippine Vocal Ensemble and Song Weavers Philippines.

Tenor Ervin Lumauag. All set for Dec. 16 Handel’s Messiah.

Carpio admitted he has handled huge choirs before. But never choral work the magnitude of Handel’s Messiah with a massive choir.

He is aware of the musical drawbacks. “Not everyone in the choir has the same level of knowledge of baroque music and its performance. Definitely not everyone in the choir has the ability to handle the vocal demands of some of the movements. For a singer in a big chorus, there is always the danger of losing a sense of balance and attention to little details such as nuances, text articulation and many others. I know this because I’ve been there. It is tough but I am prepared to work with it by making sure the sound from the chorus will be very musical and not simply an empty display of vocal prowess. Having performed with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) in numerous productions at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and having witnessed the recent performances have made me very excited to work with the new members.”

Working with the soloists is another challenge. “As a pianist and accompanist, I have worked with many singers in the past, assisting them in recitals, concerts and performances. Matters of musical areas on tempi, dynamics, and ornamentation are always discussed. If ever there’s a difference in interpretation, a compromise is always made.”

The new year is a time for him to pursue dreams for the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Like building on educational and scholarship programs and helping Filipino conductors and choirs in promoting choral music with more people getting involved. “I certainly hope that this collaboration with the PPO will not be the last. I am hoping we can have more opportunities like this.”

Featured soloists for December 16 Handel’s Messiah are soprano Stefanie Quintin, tenor Ervin Lumauag, bass-baritone Enrico Lagasca and mezzo soprano Michelle Mariel Mariposa.

For ticket inquiries on the December 16 Handel’s Messiah at the CCP, please call the CCP Box Office: 8832-3704 / 8832-1125 local 1409. Or contact For Ticketworld:  https://premier.ticketworld.com.ph 

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