I also know that Messiah is among my favourite works to perform each year. How could this be? Why doesn’t this extreme familiarity (I have memorized the entire thing note for note) breed contempt?
The academic answer is that Messiah is Handel at his most brilliant, a well-paced blend of aria and chorus that perfectly matches the arc of the Christian story, a liturgical calendar condensed into three hours.
But the real reason I and other singers love Messiah because we truly know it like no other work. Since it has become an annual Christmas tradition, most choristers have sung it in every venue, in every iteration, with every instrumentation and in every tempo, no matter how deranged or pseudo-experimental. And in that time they have come to know the strange miracle of Messiah: after years of the good and the bad and the ugly, there is always something new, something breathtaking, to be rediscovered in Handel’s writing and Charles Jennens’s libretto.