Hello all, and Merry Christmas!!! Welcome to this week’s #MusicMonday – another Christmas edition! One of my first segments here talked about my favorite musical creation in the entire universe: Handel’s Messiah. It captures all the greatness of faith, choral music, emotion, and so much more all in one deservedly celebrated oratorio. This work took a tremendous amount of genius on G.F. Handel’s part, and while I have been in love with the majesty of Messiah for years, there’s another great album based on this one that I wish more people were aware of. And I have a site…and I write about music sometimes…and it’s Christmas…so, why not?
Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration
2 centuries after the original Messiah composition, highly acclaimed late 20th-century music producer Quincy Jones decided to try an interesting spin on the Baroque classic. Jones brought in many gospel/R&B artists to bring a different take on Messiah, including Daryl Coley, Take 6, Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin, The Boys Choir of Harlem, the Clark Sisters, Commissioned, Al Jarreau, and so many others. Select choruses and arias are used, providing the source material but re-wrapped in various new genres and different musical twists. First, we get the overture, in which we are taken on a literal musical journey that visits the historical development of some styles of music (including African styles, jazz, gospel, R&B, hip-hop, etc). All of this occurs with Handel’s main overture theme still in tact, but in the absolute most interesting and musical way.
Listen to the beginning of the famous Every Valley Shall Be Exalted tenor aria. Great, right? Right. Now listen to what A Soulful Celebration does. Awesome, right?! I think I heard this as a kid before I heard the original aria (appropriate confusion and wonderment ensued). For unto us a child is born sticks with the same melodic material and format, but the choir has a celebratory field day with adding genres in the midst of this as well. Through this, the choir’s spirit elevates the music to an even higher level that quickly becomes infectious. And of course, that Hallelujah Chorus is a fantastic explosion of Handel’s original creation with some new creativity.
I could go on and on, but simply: what’s so great about this album is what it does with the course material. The musical structure is just so genius in how it makes every single solitary musical decision fit in with a different genre or sound that was a staple of its’ time period. Even further than this, each artist or group really owns the music and makes it their own. This is a true mark of solid musicianship.
Do yourself a favor and check out this album today!! In the meantime, feel free to tell me what your favorite movement is, your favorite Christmas song, compilation, or any of that! Let’s spread some great Christmas cheer with some great Christmas music.