October 2003, Richard Grayson approached the Australian Country and
Western Band The Midnight Amblers to collaborate on a project re-arranging
and performing the libretto to Handel's 1742 Oratorio 'The Messiah'.
The dual projection video work Messiah is the end result. The text,
written and assembled by Charles Jennens was created to support the
idea that Jesus Christ was indeed the person anticipated by the Jewish
prophets of the Old Testament, not an event that rendered such prophecy
void. The Band has written tunes around these words that only fleetingly
make reference to the original melodies - 'The Hallelujah Chorus'
for instance - and which use instead the languages of country rock.
Messiah, 2004 (video still)
Richard Grayson, Messiah, 2004 (video still)
Messiah' holds a central place in British culture, being listened
to and performed by many in choirs and events around the country.
By taking the words out of the matrix of classical music, they are
made strange and magical again, rather than merely a distant component
of 'high culture'. This serves to reanimate them as an expression
of a supernatural belief system: one which is now shaping significant
social and political policy in the United States through the Christian
Right, as well as helping directly shape certain expressions of American
foreign policy in the Middle East. 42% of Americans describe themselves
as 'born again' and 82% believe in miracles. Political ideology rooted
in Enlightenment ideals of rationality is being eroded and replaced
by Theology. In Australia the Christian Family First party has just
helped secure the return of the conservative party of John Howard.
In Tony Blair Britain has one of the most overtly 'Christian' prime-ministers