Created in 24 days during a low period in his life, the “Messiah,” written by George Frederic Handel, was possibly a “godsend” for the 18th Century musician, said Sandy Cordes, of Sedalia.
Cordes has directed the annual local performance of Handel’s “Messiah” each December for the last 27 or 28 years in various churches in the area. This year, the group of 50 singers will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday at Broadway Presbyterian Church.
Cheryl McCollester, “Messiah” coordinator, will accompany Cordes along with Sedalia Symphony Orchestra string musicians. A bassoon, added three years ago, will be played by Dr. William Decker. New this year is the addition of a trumpet.
“For the first time on the song ‘The Trumpet Will Sound’ we have Judge (Robert) Koffman playing the trumpet,” Cordes said.
Cordes said the group has been rehearsing the difficult selections for six weeks, two hours each Sunday afternoon.
“I tell my singers ‘until you sing ‘Messiah’ you’ve not sang it,’” she said. “You’ve been working at it, you’ve been working towards ‘Messiah.’ You rehearse it, then get up there and sing it — then in five years you’ll be better. It’s tough, it is hard. They have runs in there that are three and four measures. It’s just hard for amateur singers to sing it.”
Cordes said she’s continually amazed at Handel’s “Messiah.”
“It literally revived his career,” she noted. “He was at a low point in his career.”
In 1741, Handel wrote the entire “Messiah” from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14. The complete score book features three parts, 49 compositions and hundreds of pages.
“It was premiered in Dublin, Ireland (April 13, 1742),” Cordes added. “When I went to Dublin, I drove past the concert hall. He was at an all-time low in his health and in his finances. Somebody brought him a libretto of lyrics, and of course this is strictly from the scriptures, and that revived his career.
“It was a godsend,” she noted. “When you sit and think that he did it in 24 days without a computer, it was all done by hand and from his head, it’s amazing, it’s just amazing!”
The most famous “Messiah” piece, and one most people are familiar with, is the “Hallelujah” chorus.
“When the king at the time heard it, he was so moved by the beauty of it, he stood up,” Cordes said. “That’s when the tradition started, when ‘Hallelujah’ is sang, that the audience rises.”
She added that the group doesn’t sing all of the selections in “Messiah” but they do perform 13 choruses and 16 solos.
“‘Messiah’ is a learned skill in everything; in the singing of the chorus, in the strings when they accompany us,” she said. “The Sedalia Symphony strings do a fantastic job.
“For me it’s an acquired skill,” she added. “It’s one of those things when I go in on the first rehearsal, it comes back to me.”
She noted that she feels there is “magic” in the room as she stands and directs the choir.
“My favorite choruses are the very first ones, ‘And the Glory of the Lord,’” she said. “I love it, and I love ‘And He shall Purify.’ It’s just beautiful music.”
Although it’s out of sequence, the “Messiah”performance will end with the “Hallelujah” chorus.
“It’s a good one to end with,” Cordes noted.
Handel’s “Messiah” will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday at Broadway Presbyterian Church, 209 W. Broadway Blvd. Admission is free.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.