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Handel, Messiah: Orchestra parts


Back in October, I asked for advice about orchestral parts for Messiah, and
my decision, in light of the excellent counsel from this forum and
locally is Watkins-Shaw, Novello due to:

1. availability of parts (only 3 rehearsals remain)
2. scholarship
3. availability of all scores and parts in the States
4. I saw the new vocal scores from Novello -- they are larger and easier to read
5. again, availability, I will have parts in hand Monday

I'm working up the corrections to the Schirmer vocal score this weekend....
(sigh...) Thank God I am not doing the entire work this time around.

And, YES, I have an excellent set of string players coming in to work with
us, even this late. My "jobber" is GREAT!!! God takes care of widows,
orphans and belatedly hired pastoral musicians!

I have copied and pasted the original post and then your excellent responses
follow in no particular order. (I did put Chip Stam's post first because he
raises several important details in case you are in the same situation.
There IS now a fine continuo part available from Novello.)


************** Original Post **************

Okay everyone. I know I am opening a passionate subject here but....

I am newly appointed in a church with a tradition of good discipleship and
good music ministry. I am so grateful. We have so many resources!! What a
pleasant opportunity!

The question:
We have enough vocal parts of Messiah in the Schirmer edition (gray
books)for everyone.

We have a few of the Watkins Shaw (Novello - orange on white) edition vocal

I have the resources to hire professionals. I will be hiring for our "big
Christmas music day" and supplementing with some of
our own folk. (A gig is a gig is a gig to quote my agent.)

I do NOT have the orchestral parts or score, nor do I have the ability to
borrow them (to my knowledge).

I am planning on buying the parts, if by some miracle I can get them before
Christmas. (Who in their right mind starts a music job in late September?)

Should I:
1. Buy the orchestral parts for the version we have the most of (Schirmer)?

2. Buy the orchestral parts I want (Watkins-Shaw, Novello) and then sell
the Schirmer vocal scores, then buy the Watkins-Shaw vocal scores over time?

Bottom line -- are there enough advantages to the Watkins-Shaw edition to
justify ALL this work?

Again, it matters because this is a great church with a great tradition that
simply needs to be re-birthed. I want to be a careful and thoughtful
builder for the future (to mix a few metaphors).

Peace to you all!!

Please reply privately. I will compile and post...

Carol Wooten

Director of Music & Worship
Epworth UMC
Triangle Youth Music
Durham/Chapel Hill, NC USA

************** END OF Original Post **************

An important question with this whole MESSIAH search is "continuo." What is
the harpsichord or organ going to play from when playing with an orchestra.
If no orchestra, then the organ plays the reduction from the piano/vocal
score, but you need to end up with a usable continuo part.

Watkins/Shaw is wonderful. It is what I own, but, but to my knowledge, it
does not have a continuo part. The DOVER score has a fine contiuo part in
full score and it is cheap. There are only a few problems with it mostly
using alternate versions of arias in Watkins shaw. (NOTE from Carol --
there IS now a fine continuo part available from Novello.)

There is a new edition by Leonard Van Camp that is pretty good.
I think Peeters publishes an organ score for continuo.


Lastly, the big differences between Shirmer and Watkins Shaw are in the
and recits. If you have a good score and parts, you will have very few
problems with some of the choir having Schirmer scores. it makes it a little
difficult to rehearse (pages, etc.) but it can be done if $$ is an issue.

Chip [carlstam(a)]
(P.S. one significant diff between the editions comes in the use of dotted
in some of the choruses like LIFT UP YOUR HEADS.)


Dear Carol,
I love the Watkins-Shaw. Have performed the entire work 6 or 7 times with
orchestra. I know there are later editions which others "swear by", but
it's pretty much WS for me. I just purchased 70 of them for my new church.
The differences for choir are subtle, and if you don't have the resources
you may not want to change right away, but the WS was the first new edition
to benefit from recent scholarship re Messiah, and for my money it's great.
Best regards in your new position. Would enjoy swapping stories some time.

Christ's peace and joy to you



No doubt you have received many replies by now, but I will toss in my
'two-cents.' The Watkins-Shaw is such a fine edition that I firmly believe
it is worth the effort to start making the switch. I would get the
orchestral parts and score (there is a fine miniture score that is less
expensive and I had no trouble conducting from it). I would probably go
ahead and use the Schirmer vocal scores this time and them get rid of them.
It will be a little extra work on your part to keep everyone on the right
page (literally) and there are some mistakes in the Schirmer that you will
need to correct, i. e., the tenor and soprano parts in "For unto us."

Best wishes,
Doug & Ruth Bachorik
missionaries to the Philippines


Ifr you want to be a careful builder for the future, buy the new Oxford
University Edition (by Clifford Bartlett) which is the best edition
available and is designed to meet all ideas of make use of the different
versions of the Messiah that exist.
It's perfect scholarly work, readable and affordable as well.
So no other choice i.m.h.o.

Best wishes,

Thomas Gebhardt
Cologne (Germany)


Go with the Watkins-Shaw edition. It is worth the trouble.
Best wishes, Stacey PoorMusician(a)


Hi Carol,

To answer your question briefly (and hopefully succinctly!)---in my
opinion: YES.

I think many of us have found ourselves in precisely the same situation,
and I can tell you first-hand that the changes that you may have to make
in the Schirmer vocal scores are relatively minor when compared to those
in the in the Watkins Shaw orchestral scores, and the latter reflect
more recent scholarship. Also, as I'm sure you already know, WS gives
you lots of choices, whereas the GS version doesn't (not to mention
giving you the real scoop on what voicings were used on the solos,
etc...). You'll be much happier using the WS scores as your basis, and
working around the GS in the choir with an errata sheet.

Your idea of selling the old GS, and then using the money to replace
with WS sounds good, btw. Also, I might suggest that you give your
present WS vocal scores to your soloists first, since time's a-wastin'.

When I was at a church in Kansas City about 10 years ago, there was a
wonderful local businessman (music lover) who found out about my
problem, and he actually donated the vocal scores. He wanted to also
buy the conductor score and parts, but I wanted to have those to keep
forever, since they'd have my markings.

Best wishes for a great performance!


Hank Dahlman, DMA


RE the vocal scores, from a practical standpoint, the choruses differ only
in details between the two editions. But the solos, and the orchestra --
definitely go Shaw. I would order the Novello parts. The Novello orch
score is expensive for you, but ALL good orch scores are high these days.
It's an investment worth making. YOU buy and keep the score. Have the
CHURCH buy the orch parts. You can get them quickly from Luck's Music
Library in Madison Heights, MI, 1-800-348-8749. Smart staff, excellent
service. The players don't like these parts becuase they are printed in
incredibly crowded engraving (but they may have been re-done when Novello
re-engraved the vocal score a few years ago). But unqustionably still the
best bet, short of Barenreiter, which is also VERY good.
You can use the Schirmer vocal scores for the choruses, with the Novello
orch parts, IF (!) you go through carefully and make the occasional
adjustments. Either pencil in your editings yourself (or give a sample to a
committee who will do this), or have the singers write them in from your
list. (The first is much the better option). I wouldn't bother with a
small question of text underlay, but I would be careful about a rhythmic
adjustment (straight eighths vs dotted, for example).
Price it out from Luck's, and maybe you can buy enough Shaw/Novello vocal
scores to cover most of the choir, and then write the changes into the
Schirmer. After that, you will happliy buy the remainder of the Shaw for
next year's performance.
Brooks Grantier, The Battle Creek Boychoir, Battle Creek, MI.


At 04:53 PM 10/20/00 -0400, you wrote:
>Okay everyone. I know I am opening a passionate subject here but....

You are ever so right! Having gone through the same situation
when I was at St Paul's Cathedral, here in Buffalo, twenty years ago,
I made the move to a complete Watkins Shaw: choral scores, orchestral
parts and all, and never regretted it. If you have the financial
ability to upgrade, do it. The differences are too numerous to try
to enumerate, but your folks will find them readily enough, I think.
Scholarship has simply made such enormous strides since the days of
the 1912 Spicker-Noble gray book that, in order to use a combination
of the two editions, or try to incorporate the contemporary under-
standing into the old edition, would give everyone more grief than
it would be worth.

Good luck!

Herb Tinney
Herbert Tinney

tinneyhw(a) hwtinney(a)


For what it's worth, I would buy the Novello score and parts (or one of the
other excellent editions) and have the chorus use the Schirmer scores
forever, making adjustments as needed. I don't think there will be that
many. I think.

If you've already determined the Schirmer scores are too awful to use, then
your plan B, sell them and buy the Watkins Shaw ed.

Good luck,

David Griggs-Janower


Carol: In my opinion, #2 is by far your best choice.

(Choice #2 was buy the Watkins-Shaw, Novello instrumental parts and then
acquire the Novello vocal scores over time.)

=========================Charles E. Ruzicka, D.M.A.


Sell them all and buy the Barenreiter edition -I have been doing "Messiah"
for over 20 years - and have gone exclusively to the Barenreiter edition.
is clean (editoral markings), larger print, the orchestra parts are clean,
and they match up exactly without error (conductor score - to orchestra
to choral scores).......I know that many colleagues have gone to this
as fact I just recently sold all of my Schirmer editions and
replaced them with Barenreiters at my new church position! (Even the title
page on the Schirmer is wrong!!)

Hope it works out for you!!

James D. Moyer, MM


Hello Carol,

To answer a couple of your questions:

> We have a few of the Watkins Shaw (Novello - orange on white) edition
> parts.

> Should I:
> 1. Buy the orchestral parts for the version we have the most of
> 2. Buy the orchestral parts I want (Watkins-Shaw, Novello) and then sell
> the Schirmer vocal scores, then buy the Watkins-Shaw vocal scores over

Sure, if your budget allows. The Watkins-Shaw/Novello score is beautifully

> Bottom line -- are there enough advantages to the Watkins-Shaw edition to
> justify ALL this work?

Only you can make that judgment, however many who can are making the switch.


Gary Hammond, Hammond Music Service


Hi Carol,
I've conducted Messiah 14 times, every time using the Schirmer vocal
scores (which seem never to wear out and need replacing!!) and the
Watkins-Shaw instrumental parts (and full score). It's never been a problem.
When I've conducted it as a community sing, there have probably been 4-5
different editions of the vocal scores, as people bring what they have.
Still no problem.
The only problem I see in your situation is some using W-S vocal scores
and others Schirmer. Once you've decided what YOU'LL be using in rehearsals,
get the others to put your page #'s in their scores and go from there.
I could conduct Messiah every year 'til I die and never tire of it. Wish
I were doing it this year.Best wishes to you.
Jo Ann Poston


>Should I:
>1. Buy the orchestral parts for the version we have the most of
>2. Buy the orchestral parts I want (Watkins-Shaw, Novello) and then sell
>the Schirmer vocal scores, then buy the Watkins-Shaw vocal scores over

Don't buy the Schirmer orchestral parts- they are for the MOZART adaptation
of the Messiah, not the original!

Buy the Novello. They're generally compatible IIRC- the church I was
at used the Schirmer, but I was generally able to play from the Novello.

IMNSHO, there are plenty of reasons to buy the Novello, but I don't see any
huge reason to dump the Schirmer if you already have them.

David Bohn


No. The Schirmer scores are fine. I actually prefer them to the Watkins
because, once the chorus understands that the printed dynamics and phrasing
are editorial, it is an easy matter to make your performance practice
adjustments. Watkins Shaw, on the other hand, prints his performance
decisions as if they were Handel's.

You shouldn't have any trouble getting orchestra parts. I recommend that
buy the Dover edition of the score. Edited by Alfred Mann, this edition is
actually better in many respects than the Neue Handel Ausgabe, and certainly

Now finding players this late...good luck!

Frances Slade
Princeton Pro Musica
All Saints' Epsicopal Church



I have just completed the change with the Point Loma Nazarene University
Choral Union. The scholarship in the Watkins-Shaw is much better; I would
definitely go that route. If you have to buy the orchestra parts, buy the
W-S. You may want to compare recent editions, though; Leonard Van Camp
has just published one through Roger Dean complete with orchestra parts and
conductor's score and a text book, "A Practical Guide for Performing,
Teaching and Singing Messiah". It looks interesting.

Van Camp claims there are over 100 errors in the Schirmer (his pages
coincide with the Schirmer). The new W-S is only $8.00 so it is affordable.

Good luck. There will be some criticism, but go for it.

Best to you.



In a message dated 10/20/2000 2:54:19 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
cgwooten(a) writes:

Christmas. >>
Buy the Barenreiter parts; they are clean, go with the Schirmer edition, and
you can probably get them quickly...(Buy yourself the Barenreiter score,


Vern Sanders


on March 19, 2007 10:00pm
There are some excellent downloads of the 20 chorus's (SATB) for the Messiah (among others) available cheaply for download at the following links by an artist called Transform Studios. Quality is great and the performances are very professional and expressive. You can audition them by clicking on each track.