Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Is Bob Dylan a closet Handel fan?

Fulfilling a long-held ambition, in 2009 I attended London concerts of three of the major works in the sacred music repertoire – Bach’s St Matthew and St John Passions and Handel’s Messiah.

(I’m an eclectic music lover, not a practising Christian.)

Towards the end of Messiah, I was startled out of my slumber – it wasn’t the most engaging performance – by a line which struck me as Dylanesque:

“we shall all be chang’d”

Followed by another verse starting:

“The trumpet shall sound”.

It reminded me, of course, of Ye Shall Be Changed, the Slow Train Coming out-take which saw daylight on Bootleg Series v1-3, and which also mentions a trumpet in the chorus.

How do we explain the striking similarities? Several possibilities:

* Dylan is a closet Handel fan, or at least he’s familiar with Messiah.

* Dylan, like Handel (or, more accurately, Charles Jennens, who assembled the libretto for Messiah), is familiar with 1 Corinthians 15, vv. 51-52, the New Testament source.

* pure coincidence.

If you’re a Bible scholar and are aware of any other Dylan-Handel links, please enlighten the rest of us!

Gerry Smith