For one, I will be singing the Part 1 of The Messiah in the KL Wesley choir this coming Christmas season and we have started on our practice and rehearsal. The other reason is because this piece of music is just so wonderfully amazing, profound and brilliant. The musical movements and melody are unequaled. And on top of that, I simply love to sing this kind of music - sacred, oratorio, classical. And the fact that I know the soprano part and all the lyrics is a boon for me because I can sing along in car--my "studio"--as I commute to and fro work. All the 22 choruses!
And this morning, as I was listening and singing to All We Like Sheep, I recalled what our conductor said about it.
All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray
The Messiah, by Handel
This chorus is found in Part 2 of the oratorio, where it is centered on the death and suffering of Jesus. Paul, our conductor, remarked why on earth would Handel interject amidst the seriousness of all the arias and choruses in the Part 2 with something so flimsy as this. I know I did say something in reply but I cannot remember exactly what I said.
But as I thought more about it this morning, it is even more apparent to me why Handel did it. And he was a genius for doing so. The very message is in the words and the music of the song.
The lyrics of the first part of the chorus are: "All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way." It is then followed by a complete change of mood in the music (2:42) when the lyrics moved on to "And the Lord hath laid on Him, the iniquity of us all."
It is a fact that we are like sheep and we have gone astray from God. And the music depicted that perfectly in how we live our lives in flimsiness, aimlessness and indifference. Note how the word "astray" and "turned" is sung: erratic and shifty.
And then comes the magnitude and the gravity of what God has done for us, that he has laid on Jesus the weight of all our sin.
Isn't that amazing, the message of the Gospel, how God saved us from our own calamity, and how Handel has so beautifully brought it out?