Singing Handel's Messiah, even if you can't sing
Which I can't.
But Sunday a week ago I went to the Messiah sing-a-long at the Baptists' old, carved church, the pews in its round nave packed with people singing their hearts out - the tenors so tender, the sopranos, high and thrilling, the basses, heart-thudding, and I, poor alto, bobbing along on a wild sea, feeling the breath of Spirit inside me and the hand of Spirit securely holding me, unutterable ecstasy. . .
The Portland Baroque Orchestra, founded by Englishwoman Monica Huggett, played. When the audience stood up to sing the choruses, the conductor turned around to conduct us, his arms and face moving like Prospero commanding the deep. Our voices thundered over him. He staggered back.
Somewhere in the Weight of Glory CS Lewis suggests that visions of heaven bear the same relationship to the real heaven as a pencil sketch of a tree bears to a real tree. The sketchy notion that angels in heaven stand around gazing at God and singing is tedious enough that some people would just as soon not go to heaven at all.
But I am here to say that if the experience of heaven is anything like singing Messiah with a great sea of people, it will be bliss for me.
Handel came to London because he didn't want to be a servant musician in Hanover. He wanted to be his own man in a peaceful but exciting place where people liked music and where he had a chance to make his own way. In December 1710, when he was 25, he arrived in London. He thrived. Thirty years later he wrote Messiah, and donated concert proceeds and the score to the Foundling Hospital, which cared for orphans and abandoned children.
Handel in West Virginia. Turn up the volume.