Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Trumpet shall Sound!

I've just enjoyed (or endured, depending on your view!) my first performance of Handel's 'Messiah' this Advent. It was a good, solid performance with some excellent young soloists, although disappointingly the tradition of the audience standing for the Halleluiah chorus was only continued by two people!

As I listened to the performance, I was struck once again by the beauty of one of the final arias: the bass's 'The trumpet shall sound'. The soloist sings the recitative: 'Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet'. This is followed by the aria: 'The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality'. Here’s a video for your enjoyment!

It's a glorious aria, with the trumpet part accompanying the singer who has to tackle technical difficulties and who needs a great amount of stamina (although I'm sure you'll agree that the singer in this recording, Alastair Miles, makes it look like a walk in the park!).

I find the aria so uplifting as it seems to offer us two causes for joy: firstly, the promise that, after death, we shall indeed be changed, entering into eternity in God's kingdom. Secondly, there is the more subtle reminder that we have been made new in our knowledge and love of Our Lord. When we embark on the Christian journey, when we let Christ into our hearts, we become changed by His grace: our old way of life, particularly for those of us who have not been brought up as Christians, is transformed. A new way of living is offered to us in the example and teachings of Jesus and so in a very real sense we have been changed already in the knowledge and love of Him.

Handel's musical interpretation of these joys is triumphant and reminds the listener of the power and love of God. During the reflective quiet and preparation of Advent, it offers a glimpse of the joys of Easter and finally to the Last Day when He shall come again with glory and, as the soprano soloist proclaims earlier in the 'Messiah': ‘and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep’.

1 comment:

  1. At a performance at the Barbican by the Sixteen last December everyone stood, as is the custom in right thinking society, so the norm is not yet dead.