“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;1 Chronicles 16:31
let them say among the nations,”
His father tried to discourage his musical interests, preferring that he enter the legal profession. But it was the organ, harpsichord, and violin that captured the heart of young George Frideric Handel. Once, accompanying his father to the court of Duke Johann Adolf, young George wandered into the chapel, found the organ, and started improvising. The startled Duke exclaimed: “Who is this remarkable child?”
This “remarkable child” soon began composing operas, first in Italy then in London. By his 20’s, he was the talk of England and the best paid composer on earth. He opened the Royal Academy of Music. Londoners fought for seats at his every performance, and his fame soared around the world.
But the glory passed. Audiences dwindled. His music became outdated, and he was thought of as an old fuddy-duddy. Newer artists eclipsed the ageing composer. One project after another failed, and Handel, now bankrupt, grew depressed. The stress brought on a case of paralysis that crippled some of his fingers. “Handel’s great days are over,” wrote Frederick the Great, “his inspiration is exhausted.”
But his troubles also matured him, softened his sharp tongue, his temper mellowed, and his music became more heartfelt. One morning he received a manuscript form Charles Jennens. It was a word for word collection of various Biblical texts about Christ. The opening words from Isaiah 40 moved Handel: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…”
On the 22nd of August 1741 he shut the door of his home and started composing music for the words. Twenty-three days later The Messiah was born! “Wether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not,” Handel later said. The Messiah opened in London to enormous crowds on 23rd of March 1743, with Handel leading from his harpsichord. King George II surprised everyone leaping to his feet during the Hallelujah Chorus. The audience followed suit. Nobody knows why his majesty jumped to his feet. Some believe the king, being hard of hearing, might have thought it was the national anthem.
Whatever the case, from that day on audiences everywhere have stood in reverence during the words: “Hallelujah! For He shall reign forever and ever.”
Handel’s fame was rekindled, and even after he lost his eyesight, he continued playing the organ for performances of his oratorios until his death, 14th April 1759.
It is interesting and good to remind ourselves when Jesus will return to take his throne and “reign forever and ever” no knee will stand, whether they belong to a king or not, but every knee shall bow before the King of kings, and Lord of lords!