Patrick Cavanaugh’s book, Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers, reveals intriguing details of George Frederick Handel’s life-changing experience composing The Messiah. By age 56 he was about to retire as a failure when a friend gave him a libretto of Scripture verses—and everything changed.
Cavanaugh writes, “Handel threw himself into writing and in a staggering stretch completed part one in only six days, part two in only nine, and part three in another six. He worked feverishly, driven by one overwhelming purpose.”
According to Cavanaugh, at one point he answered the door with tears streaming down his face and cried out, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.” He had just finished what would become known as the “Hallelujah” chorus.
Cavanaugh describes this amazing experience: “Handel completed an astounding 260 pages of orchestration in only twenty-four days. During that process, he didn’t leave his house, and friends often found him sobbing with emotion . . . . Some have considered it one of the greatest musical feats in history.”
Writer, speaker, and producer Phil Cooke reflects on this inspiring account in his blog . . . “It was as if he had been waiting his entire life for that moment.
“Even Handel’s commercial successes were usually followed by financial disaster. He was attacked by the church and many at the time felt little reason to believe his talent was worthy of any kind of legacy—until The Messiah . . . .
“Out of a past that was uneven at best, the creation of Messiah was a burst of creativity driven by the remarkable passion of a man who glimpsed his one real purpose.”
Phil asks this penetrating question: “What’s that one moment you’ve been waiting for all your life? How many times have you thought about giving up?”
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