I grew up in industrial Lancashire, just outside a small cotton town, and every year, as Christmas approached, posters would go up in shop windows and on notice-boards, advertising performances of Messiah by this choral society or that chapel or church or school choir. For very many people Christmas would not have been Christmas without attending a performance of Messiah.
The grammar school that I and my sisters attended always held its performance just before the end of the autumn term. Year after year I longed to sing in it, but was told I was needed to play violin in the school orchestra which accompanied the singers. It was only after I had left school that I was welcomed back at the end of my first term at university to sing soprano in the chorus and hear my next-to-youngest sister sing the contralto solos.
The tender beauty of the solos, the rousing grandeur of the choruses and the Baroque intricacies of the music form part of the essential background to Advent and Christmas for me even now. So, in the spirit of this tradition, here are the two aria inspired by the readings I heard in church this morning.
Such glory, such faith.