The Secret Message in Handel’s Messiah

George Frideric Handel hid a secret message in The Messiah when he composed his masterpiece oratorio in 1741. 

The incredible code has remained undetected until last night when I discovered it at the conclusion of a brilliant performance by the Toronto Symphony, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and soloists.

Don’t believe me? Let me explain.

My partner Bill was a music teacher of piano and voice. Over our thirty-three years together, hundreds of children and adults came to our home for lessons. They adored him. Bill was something of a larger-than-life character and highly respected as a music teacher. He always had a waiting list of students anxious to secure a place. With the children, he had infinite patience. With the adults, not so much.

When Bill and I first met in 1976, fell in love, and started living together, we discovered that one of the things we shared in common was a passion for music, especially classical music. There was always music playing in our home. Over the decades, we went to countless musical events in Toronto and in every major concert hall and opera house around the world.

One of our favourite Christmas traditions was attending The Messiah every year. Bill had a beautiful tenor voice and sang in many performances.

Then, Bill died. He was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer on August 7, 2009. He died two weeks later in our home. The story of those incredible two weeks and of our thirty-three-year love affair is told in my memoir “August Farewell.”

As with many people who lose a loved one, there is a powerfully-charged emotional dilemma about what to do with the special traditions that were shared together. To continue them invariably brings back all the memories. To ignore the traditions would feel disrespectful. My choice has been to embrace the traditions come what will.

And so, in a fragile state, I was at Roy Thomson Hall last night for the annual performing of The Messiah.

I held it together pretty well throughout the performance. Until the finale.

The oratorio ends with a chorus that concludes in a four-minute-long stunning choral “Amen”.

All of a sudden, as the 250 voices of the massed choir were reverberating through the concert hall, I wasn’t hearing “A—men, A—men, A—men,…”

I was hearing “Hall—man, Hall—man, Hall—man,…”

Tears streamed down my cheeks.

Bill was directing a chorus of angels calling out my name.

At least that’s how I experienced it.

I know that Handel’s coded love note from Bill to me was discernible to my ears only. No matter. It was intended for me after all.

* * *

Information on my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead” is available on my website at

Both the memoir and the novel are available for ordering through your local bookstore or on-line retailers including,,,,

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The picture below is of Bill’s well-used score of Handel’s Messiah sitting on the piano in our home.





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7 responses to “The Secret Message in Handel’s Messiah

  1. Melinda Santa Cruz aka MIndy Ross

    I wish I had lived next door to you guys. You were so much fun! I would have taken singing lessons from BIll as I love to sing. Wouldn’t have taken any baloney off him though. Ha Ha!

  2. Elaine

    Such a beautiful ‘share’, David. It’s so difficult to keep going to the dark places, but the opening of one’s self to it is truly healing. (I bet you’re tired of healing already!) So glad that you went there, because Bill wouldn’t want you to miss his conducting debut …. Hall – man. I hope those angels sang in tune! Love, Elaine

  3. Paul MacDonald

    David that is an amazing story especially at Christmas, I have read much of the Bible many times and one scripture that comes to mine is a message Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 We are living epistles written on our heart seen and read of all men. I think opening up your faith allowed you to receive this beautiful experience and gift from Bill. I have also heard the spiritual world is like radio waves passing through the atmosphere we cannot perceive them until we tune in the reciever. you and Bill continue to inspire I will share this with Maria, Claire and Andrew. Love Paul

  4. Chuck Baker

    David thank you for sharing this….it brought tears to my ears and bitter sweet memories for me of loved ones who have gone on….Love Chuck

  5. David,What a lovely blog post which I found from Debra Maher’s post of 12/18. I was waiting for her to unfold her grief in beautiful words of tribute as she’s such a fantastic writer. You have done the same. Both of you are inspirations to those of us who have lost so much.

  6. Beautiful David, just beautiful. When I hear songs on the radio that TJ used to sing along with I sometimes hear him singing….singing in his horrible voice, but I loved it nonetheless. xoxo

  7. You always seem to make me cry, but I am smiling too. A beautiful story – these moments are the REAL ones in life. The rest is illusion. Wonderful.

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