22. Behold the Lamb of God

Part II deals with the most basic idea in Handel’s Messiah – the redemption available to us because of Christ’s personal suffering. And this chorus, with text from the Gospel of John, no longer shows the central character as a shepherd – He has become a suffering, Sacrificial Lamb. The musical theme for “He shall feed his flock” (Christ the Shepherd) is remarkably similar to that for “Behold the Lamb of God” (Christ the Sacrificial Lamb). But instead of emphasizing Christ’s suffering itself, Handel focuses on the redemptive power “that taketh away the sin of the world.” The dotted rhythms that abound in this movement depict passionate, pathetic expression.
Be aware of the many accidentals in this movement – E natural or Eb and F natural or F# - Ab in measures 18 and 19. Ears and eyes must become familiar with the tortuous and agonized twists and turns of the vocal lines in this chorus. Don’t over dramatize the dynamics in an attempt to achieve the feeling of Christ’s personal suffering. Handel has portrayed this in the melodic and harmonic fabric of the chorus. One scholar warns that “when this wonderful chorus is sung too slow or loudly, - as it usually is – all its tender mourning is lost.” Keep the five note descending figure prominent wherever it occurs.

Theme A – BASS, measures 4-5

Behold the Lamb of God - strong "Be" as it is low and hard to hear, strong consonants L M,

Connect the "ld" of "behold" to the "th" of "the",

Strong "d" of "God" at the rest – beat 4.

B(EE) – H(AW)(OO) – LDth(oo) L(EH)M (UH)v G(AW)D

ALL – expressive crescendo on "-hold", then decrescendo on "the Lamb of God"

The 5 note descending theme must be emphasized –


Theme B – BASS, measures 18-21

That taketh away the sin of the world, the sin of the world – articulate only the second "t" on

"that taketh", slight glottal stop before "away",

sing "sin" not "sins", omit the "r" on "world",

th(EH) - T(EH)(EE) – k(EH)th / (UH)(OO) – (EH)(EE)

th(oo) s(IH)n (UH)v the(oo) (OO)(oo)LD …

SOPRANO emphasized 9, ALTO & TENOR 10, SOPRANO 10, TENOR 11, BASS 11

on the long held notes, as in the SOPRANO, measures 17-21 imagine the agony of Christ being stretched out on the cross. Though the volume must not be too great, the tone quality must be intense.

ALL, measures 13-16 and 27-29 – sung very broadly and sustained. The descending or ascending 5 note theme must dominate – SOPRANO, 13-14; BASS, 16; SOPRANO, 17

BASS emphasized 23-26

ALL – pay close attention to all accidentals!

ALL - When this wonderful chorus is sung too loudly – as it often is – all it’s tender mourning is lost!