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Handel's Messiah

Would anyone know if there is such a thing as an easier version of Handel's "Messiah"? - choruses perhaps in lower keys...  I want to find something accessible for 5-6 church choirs to sing together.
on October 4, 2012 7:29am
Peter, Yes there is such an easier version of the Christmas portions of Messiah.  It's called Handel's Christmas Messiah arr. James A. Dasher and published by Flammer at Shawnee Press
 
It is available in SATB or SAB versions.  Choruses are transposed down and the SAB version Tenor solo is more likely suited to a baritone.
 
Handel was an astute business man as well as a stellar composer.  I'm sure he would have come up with these version if he thought there was a market for them.
 
Good luck with them.
 
Myron Patterson
on October 4, 2012 7:40am
There's a C major version
 
DJ
on October 6, 2012 12:56pm
This isn't in a lower key, but the feedback I have received from choir directors on these part-predominant recordings indicate that they are very useful in helping singers to learn their parts.
 
 
Jim Taylor
Singharmony.com Inc.
on October 6, 2012 5:38pm
The original question's been answered, but it's worth noting that there's a good chance that Handel's key WAS lower than today's.
 
He wrote the choruses in the key of D because the trumpets available to him were in the key of D.  (Interesting, because Purcell wrote for trumpets in C before Handel came to town--played by the Shore brothers.)  But what WAS Handel's "key of D"?  (And was it the same in Dublin, where the work was premiered, as in London?)
 
The convention that "baroque pitch was A=415" is a modern convention--an agreed-upon "standard" that was actually never the case.  Baroque pitch was all over the place, and travelers tell us that it was highest in Venice (A=460 or higher) and lowest in Paris (A=392 or lower), but even those are estimates and generalizations.  The pitch at any given church or at any given court in ANY given city was the pitch the organ was built to and tuned to.  In Bach's time there were at least 4 different "standard" pitches in use:  high and low chorus pitch and high and low chamber pitch.  And the editors of his music for the Bach Gesellschaft in the 19th century, used to the concept of transposing woodwind instruments, ended up putting Cantata 106 in the wrong key because they trusted the wrong parts (string, organ, and vocices rather than woodwinds).
 
Both woodwind and brass instruments have to be built to be "in" a particular key, of course, and a church or court would have had instruments built to play together at THEIR pitch standard, but it's entirely possible that C trumpets in one town would have been D trumpets in another town. 
 
"Standard" pitch has never really been standard, not even since the acceptance of A=440 as an international standard.  Some orchestras push that pitch higher.  Some late 19th century band instruments were built to play at either a higher or lower standard.
 
So no one should feel bad about wanting to adjust the sounding pitch of any baroque music.  Just keep in mind that instruments are not infinitely variable, while voices are (at least in the absence of singers with perfect pitch).
 
All the best,
John
on October 7, 2012 9:17am
You can get MusicEase Messiah from the Mac App store. It is the complete Messiah and is fully transposable to any key. Additionally, before you print you can change the font used for lyrics to any font/size available on your computer, re-scale the music larger or smaller, automatically re-castoff and justify, extract any combination of parts, transpose individual parts (for transposing instruments), scale some parts to a different size than other parts in the same system, etc. The cost is $20 and no royalties are required (it is based on the Chrysander edition which is pd.)

Alternatively, you can get the Christian Virtual Hymnal from MusicEase Software (http://www.musicease.com) which contains all of the above functionality in addition to some 3,500 pd hymns (all of which are also transposable and fully customizable.)


Gary Rader
on October 9, 2012 6:40am
Larry Pugh also has a quite satisfactory edition of MESSIAH.  It is available from Lorenz Publishing.  I have done it twice, once with high school and once with a smaller church choir of 13 singers.  There is also an orchestration available.  Keys are lower, little melismatic singing, easier solos so anyone in your choir could "Handel" them.  :-)
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