Excerpt from Handel and Haydn Society Centenary: April 11, 13, 14, 15, 1915, Symphony Hall, Boston
It must not be thought, however, that the Handel and Haydn choir was at that day anything like what present generations of Bostonians know. A curious practice then prevailed of ... assigning the tenor part to the sopranos, and the treble to the male altos and tenors. With such abuses, and the defects incident to the untrained condition of the amateur chorus, drilled and conducted by an inex perienced amateur, says Charles C. Perkins in his monumental History, it is wonderful that the Society should have found not only patient but enthusiastic listeners to their performances of such an oratorio as 'the Messiah' during many years of probation. This can only be explained by supposing that Handel's music, and the Scripture text to which it is set, had become so much a unit in the minds of our forefathers that, however performed, they accepted it as an integral part of revealed truth. It is not then surprising that, appealing as it does to the lover of beauty, the musician, and the believer, 'the Messiah,' in which the light of Handel's genius shines with incomparable brightness, should have kept an unrelaxed hold upon popular affection for well-nigh a century and a half and the best part of the succeeding half-century that has elapsed since Mr. Perkins wrote. From 1818 to the present time The Messiah has been given one hundred and thirty - one times, and The Creation seventy-two times, and Boston could plume herself on a certain fond familiarity with two of the greatest master works of art long before they were much in vogue in any of her sister cities, as Mr. Dwight remarked.
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