Authenticity online: British Library allows virtual browsing of original Messiah score
A facsimile of the original score of Messiah, by George Frideric Handel, has been in print for a while. Now you can flip through Handel's own finished score -- all yellowed pages and ink blotches-- on the British Library's website. It worked beautifully on my computer, using Silverlight.
Click on the image icon to get there.
Handel's pencil mark for the first aria, "Ev'ry valley," says "Mr. Beard," tenor soloist for the first London performance, in 1743. You can see what Handel trimmed and changed -- how the great choruses and arias we know today took shape.
You can zoom in and out of the page spreads, and there is an excellent spoken guide available for each set of pages that provides all kinds of interesting background tidbits.
If you like Baroque music, but have never seen a composer's original, it comes as a shock to realise how many notes for the continuo players (accompaniment) are not there. The harpsichord and organ players, for example, would have improvised their parts, based on a set of rules and traditions.
But thanks, thanks, thanks be to choristers
While sitting in Tafelmusik's performance of Messiah last night, I thought of all the people who get vocal training, don't go out into the world as professional soloists, but end up singing in professional, semi-professional, church and community choirs. Each and every one of them is as valuable to making fine choral music as a Renée Fleming or Placido Domingo are to a Met opera production. They have to practise and learn the same way as the soloists do. They have to look good and sound fine no matter how tired they are -- just as the soloists do. Yet rarely do they get acknowledgement for their time, effort and interest.
Here's one of the entries in Tafelmusik's Singalong Messiah contest, the Newman Centre Festival Singers, from University of Toronto. For details on the winning entries, click here: