Sharing the Messiah: Our Seasonal Favorite

‘Tis the season for The Messiah, and we are as disappointed as you that circumstances prevent us from sharing the holidays with you. Maestro Kohl has assembled a list of six very different interpretations of Handel’s timeless classic. “Naturally there are things I like and don’t like about each of them,” says Kohl, who in “normal” years, presents his own unique version right after Thanksgiving. “But there’s something to love about each of them, and I hope that you will find inspiration and hope in one or more of these recordings…until our next live performance of The Messiah in 2021.”

Here is Kohl’s list. They range in scale, instrumentation, and style: from the original 13-voice to a 600-voice chorus, and baroque versus modern instruments to Mozart’s arrangement, sung in German.

Fascinating Facts About Handel’s Messiah

Test your knowledge of Messiah trivia. How many of these facts do you know?

King George II did not stand for the Hallelujah Chorus. 

You may have heard the story that King George stood up on the phrase “King of Kings,” and because when the king stands, so does everyone, and thus the tradition was born. The story seems to be apocryphal, and not apparently based on any historical source. In fact, there’s no record that the king attended the London performances. Still, it’s a great story, and if the King did attend, it would be easy to imagine him standing at that point.  And so audiences stand!

Handel’s original orchestration was for just 17 musicians. (Perfect for PCO!)

Mozart later gave it a classical orchestra perspective, adding flutes, clarinets, horns and trombones. In the 20th century, British Conductor Sir Thomas Beecham commissioned an adaption for the largest symphony orchestra, taking Mozart’s orchestration and adding more horns, a piccolo, contra-bassoon, cymbals, triangle, bass drum, tuba..and not one, but two harps!

Handel wrote several versions of the solos, based on the singers that were available.

In addition to the Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone, Handel created versions that utilize a counter-tenor, a boy soprano, two sopranos, et al.

Smallest chorus in performance? 13.

The largest? Over 3,000, at a live, sing-along performance at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall!

The Messiah premiered in Dublin as a fund-raiser!

Handel’s work was initially deemed not religious enough (it was the first such work to not have a part for the Messiah); nor was it deemed sufficiently secular to be performed in theaters. Handel was thus forced to give the premiere in Dublin, Ireland. The first performances raised money for two hospitals and a debtors’ prison!

Speaking of Fund-Raisers…

‘Tis the season of sharing, too.

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to PCO today so that we may remain strong, and emerge strong and ready to take the stage when the concert halls reopen. On-line donations my be one-time or  automatically recurring monthly, quarterly or annually. Donations may also be made by check to the address below. Together we will make music in the silence, ensuring PCO’s unique artistic contribution to our local community.


PATRON $2,500+
MEMBER $1,000+
DONOR $500+
FRIEND $100+

Legacy and major gifts can be made to the “Orchestra Society” and “Conductor’s Circle”. For additional information please email

Or By Mail, payable to:

Pacific Chamber Orchestra PO Box 3134 Livermore, CA 94551


Plan to join us in the concert hall in early 2021 as our hearts soar together in celebration together with our return performance featuring Astor Piazzolla’s sultry and seductive Neuvo Tango opus, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aries.