26. All we like sheep
Track 23 on Rehearsal CD

This is another of the love duet choruses based on the last half of the duet that served for the music of “For unto us a Child is born.” The text, from Isaiah 53:6, is a continuation of that used in the two previous choruses. This has long been a controversial chorus, with critics claiming it to be frivolous and inappropriate for its text; but it is, in fact, an excellent chorus. Here Handel vividly paints the waywardness of mankind and our tendency to wander aimlessly like sheep. He has written music that jumps from voice to voice, meanders up and down the staff, or hangs on stubbornly, as we hang on to our own sinful ways. The vivid imagery this chorus summons up is described by Streatfeild in this way: “The colour is positively hurled at the canvas. But the result is colossal. The sheep wandering without the shepherd seem to have the world for their pasture, and the tremendous coda, in which the promise of atonement is thundered forth, seems to be written upon the skies for all the nations to read.”
The final adagio graphically paints the central message of this group of three choruses: Christ takes our sins on his own back and we are thereby redeemed from sin.

cut bars 34-54

Theme A – SOPRANO, measures 17-18

All we, like sheep – always pause at comma after "we", connect the "k" of "like" to the

"sh" of "sheep", put final "p" on beat 2

(AW)ll (OO)(EE) l(UH)(EE) – kSH(EE)P

Theme B – ALTO, measures 9-11 (emphasize wandering nature of melody – sing first part legato)

Have gone astray – flip "r" in "astray"

H(EH)v g(AW)n (UH) – STR(EH) … (EH)(EE)

Theme C – SOPRANO, measures 11-13 beat 1 (sung sustained)

We have turned - accent fist note of every other group of sixteenths, omit "r" on "turned"

(OO)(EE) h(EH)v T(oo)N – (IH)d

Theme D – SOPRANO, measures 13 beat 2-14 (sung very marked)

every one to his own way - like a rebellious child demanding it’s own way, flip "r"

(EH) – VR(EE) (OO)(UH)N T(oo) H(IH)Z (AW)(OO)N (OO)(EH)(EE)

Finale – ALL, measures 76-end (sung majestically, very broad and sustained)

And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. – strong ND, L’s, TH, M, N,

omit "r" in Lord, keep it moving until end, last measure has 8 counts.

(EH)nd th(oo) L(AW)D h(EH)th l(EH)(EE)d (AW)n H(IH)M

th(EE) (IH)N – (IH) – K(OO)(IH) – T(EE) (UH)v (UH)s (AW)LL


Keep a steady tempo! Don’t slow down or speed up!

revel in the first 75 bars – they are intended to portray the undisciplined, foolish and aimless way we deal with life.

Then the final section will in contrast, illustrate a deep sincerity and reverence for Christ’s sacrifice for us all.