One of my personal Christmas traditions (and I have a few) involves a little quiet, a pair of headphones, and a superlative recording of Messiah by Georg Frederich Handel. I do not believe a greater work of exultation and worship has ever been written and Christmas would simply not be the same without it.
I can’t give you the whole work here, though if you’re interested in the version I like the most, it is this one, directed by Andrew Davis and performed by the Toronto Symphony and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Yes, I know Messiah should be performed by a small chamber group with period instruments (Hey, look! Sir Neville Mariner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with soprano Elly Ameling!), but I like my Messiah huge, with a big orchestra and choir so the grand pieces are truly grand. Davis’ version is perfect, and also includes Kathleen Battle as the Soprano soloist. If that’s the wrong way to hear this piece, I don’t want to know from right.
Okay, enough talk. Let’s hear some music. I decided to pull out a few of my favorite parts of Messiah for your listening pleasure this evening. What follows are “And the Glory of the Lord”, “His Yoke is Easy”, “Hallelujah”, and the finale “Worthy is the Lamb / Amen”. The first two are by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Choir directed by the incomparable Robert Shaw and the latter come from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Plug in your headphones, close your eyes, turn it up, and enjoy. Merry Christmas!