There were sheppards

Glory to God

Rejoice greatly



First published Dublin Ireland Apr 13, 1742

Librettist: charles Jennings – Messiah written in English

Genre: Oratorio

Form: Sonnet – took him 24 days to compose it

Parts: Three – Christmas, Easter, Redemption of the world: Prophesy of coming of Christ; Christ’s suffering, death, spread of his doctrine; Redemption of world through faith

Context: Composed as “entertainment” to recoup a Dublin Concert Hall financial losses, though first performance proceeds went to charity

Medium: Orchestra

Text: From Old and New Testaments



Genre: French Overture – slow dotted rhythm

Key: E minor

Meter: 4/4

Tempo: Largo

Atmosphere: Heavy sonorous

A – Melody played, and repeated. Homorhythmic pattern, the repeat is quieter, and without brass or percussion

B – Fugue –

Tempo: Faster

Voices: Three

Texture: Polyphonic

Subject introduced by V1, Answer by V2 – Answer is Tonal – ie the answer is not an exact transposition of the subject. It is modified

The fugue starts in E minor, then has an ‘episode’ where it changes to G major, on to B minor. There is a sequence  with movenent to G major, and a second sequence with movement back to E minor (the home key)

It ends over a dominant pedal point

The conclusion shows a ‘ral’



There were sheppards abiding in the field…………

Starts recitative secco  (F major) – solo soprano with sustained chords by harpsichord and cello

Then recitative accompagnato – And Lo, the angel of the Lord came………..

String accompanyment using arpeggiated chords

Then recitative secco (C major) – And the angel said – again sustained chords with harpsichord and cello

Then R. accompagnato (D major) – And suddenly there was………..Allegro with strong rippling strings



Glory to God in the highest –

Key D major, tempo Allegro, 4/4

4 voices, homorhythmic, with moving string accompanyment, strong and declamatory

and peace on earth (monophony) – tenors and basses alone, descending octave leap for basses, homophonic

Good will towards men – Imitative, polyphonic – fugue built from lowest to highest voices, with exchange of “goodwill” between high and low voices

All lines then repeated, with orchestral closing



Rejoice greatly – Soprano  A B A’, key B flat major

Instrumental ritornello, vocal theme presented in violins

A: Rejoice greatly –

Disjunct rising line, melismas on “rejoice”, with melody exchanged between soprano and violin…..”shout” has no melisma

Texture – homophonic

Piece becomes syncopated, with choppy melody, ending in F major (dominant), then instrumental ritornello

B.  He is the righteous Saviour

Begins in G minor, slower and more lyrical. Modulates back to B flat major. Texture simple monophony. Closes in D minor

A’. Rejoice greatly again

Abridged instrumental ritornello, followed  by more complex pattern with longer melismas on Rejoice. Use of imitative polyphony. Handel also uses ‘word painting’ so that in the hills and valleys, the soprano sings up and down to mimic the written words



Brilliant orchestration blended with strong clear harmonies

Chorus blending homophonic and imitative sections –

Four voice homophonic beginning, after short instrumental intro –

“Hallelujah” –  four voice homophony, strong and declamatory, repeated

“For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, Hallelujah” – simple monophony at first, then builds to imitative polyphony, with greater and greater complexity, trumpets in the background

“The kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord” – quieter  homophonic treatment, with simpler accompanyment

“and he shall reign for ever and ever” – imitative polyphony, building from bass to soprano

“King of Kings and Lord of Lord, Hallelujah” – female voices introduce the text, punctuated by Hallelujah, trumpets in the background

“and He shall reign for ever and ever” – polyphonic

“King of Kings and Lord of Lords” – homophonic start to imitative polyphonic climax (He shall reign) with strong homophonic ending on Hallelujah

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