As many of you know, I have a wonderful singing job at Nassau Presbyterian Church. I am honored to sing as the soprano section leader and soloist for the choir. Yesterday was Easter, and in keeping with tradition, we sang the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.
If you attended an Easter service yesterday, my guess is that the congregation also sang this piece! You may have noticed that everyone stood, as well. Here's why:
"George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) composed Messiah in twenty-four days for the Charitable Musical Society of Dublin. Messiah was not intended for church performance nor was it meant to be a typical theater diversion. *It was originally composed for a small choir of about 16 voices, 4 on each voice part.* Performances sometimes featured thousands of participants; amateur choral societies flourished in correlation with this tradition.
To the present day, orchestrated Messiah “sing-alongs” draw large crowds of non-professional singers, particularly in American and British communities. Do-It-Yourself Messiah performances have been a Christmas tradition in Chicago since 1976.
The iconic “Hallelujah” chorus does not celebrate the birth of Christ as so many believe, but instead occurs at the end of the second part, as a celebration of the Resurrection and ascension. This chorus has always been an audience favorite. It is still customary for audiences to stand during the “Hallelujah” chorus, a tradition that began before 1780 and is popularly attributed to King George II who reputedly stood during the chorus at an early London performance."
Here's me (red bonnet on the left) and a group of people participating in a pop-up chorus version of this piece last December. How fun!
Maria Palombo is a Voice Instructor and Singer living in Central NJ. She is the founder of Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, a private voice studio in Mercer County, NJ.