08 December 2011

Hallelujah Chorus--Can You Handel It?

I have always, and I mean always loved the "Hallelujah Chorus."  What's not to love?  It's epic, it's majestic, and it's just plain fun, especially to sing.  I know that many people don't consider classical music fun, but they're wrong.  The Hallelujah Chorus is kinda like the Ode to Joy in that both are so exuberant, so...well...joyous that it is nearly impossible to hear them or sing them without feeling your soul swell to the heavens, regardless of your individual religious beliefs or lack thereof.  Besides, one of the best parts of the Hallelujah Chorus is watching at the beginning to see how many people know that they're supposed to stand for the chorus.  Sometimes there will be one or two people who immediately pop up like a jack-in-the box, followed grudgingly by the others in the audience who know they should as well, followed lastly by random audience members looking around in utter confusion while they try to ascertain what the heck is going on.  Other times it's like a race to avoid going first.  People look around, waiting to see who is going to start the movement, because they don't really want to be that person.  It's too much like arriving at a party before anyone else.  You're left alone and exposed, responsible for the bulk of conversation or, in this case, choral enjoyment.  No one wants to be first.  So in the end, 4-5 people will halfway stand up, still largely hunched over the seats in front of them, with their asses either suspended in space or bobbing up and down while they try to decide "Should I sit?  Should I stand??" until all 4-5 people more or less straighten up at the same time, the weight of their uniform decision dragging everyone else up as well. 

Personally, I think it's a little like watching an awkward ballet of bobbing booties and it makes me giggle every time.  When I'm not singing it, I tend to be one of the jack-in-the box audience members, jumping up loud and proud at the first swell of music.  What can I say?  It's a tradition ("Traditioooooon--TraDITION!") that's been going on for over 250 years.   Legend has it that King George II was so moved by the music of the Hallelujah Chorus that he stood up and since no one is allowed to sit in the presence of a monarch, it became customary to stand whenever the Chorus is played.   How many other pieces of classical music can claim to have that kind of power over an audience?

Another fun thing to do during the performances (aside from watching the sopranos turn red and purple while trying to sustain some of those long, high notes) is to wait till the very last "hallelujah" to see if the group currently singing will remember to cut off right before the final 4 notes.  We're talking train tracks here, people.  Giant, screeching halt.  "Hallelujah"..."Hallelujah"..."Hallelujah" (ginormously long pause) "Haaaaaaaaaalaaaaaayluuuuuujaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!"
In a well-trained or experienced group of singers, this "grand pause" is a glorious, epic moment--the climax of the piece, really.  In a less experienced choir, one with faces buried in music and not watching the director (not that I've ever been in a choir like that, or anything...) you just KNOW someone is going to blow it either by cutting off too late before the grand pause or, more likely, coming in too early after it, creating a nice little solo that causes the conductor's ears to start spewing steam while a red flush creeps slowly up from his tuxedoed neck.  It isn't pretty.  Premature continuation never is.

Not surprisingly, being the quirky and sarcastic sort of person that I am, I can't truly love something without parodying it.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Therefore, for today's video, I'd like to offer something a little different than the same old, same old concert video of the Hallelujah Chorus.  Years ago in a Sunday School class, we had a lady come in and give a lecture on the background of the Hallelujah Chorus.  At the end of the talk, she showed us a video very much like the one I'm about to show you.  That video captured my imagination and has stayed with me ever since.  I hope you enjoy it too. 

Unfortunately, for some reason the first 6 or so bars are cut off in this version, though you can see what's going on a little better than in other videos.  For a complete version (with an extremely long and cheesy introduction), try St. Francis de la Sissies

Around the time that I was planning out my month of Christmas music videos for this blog, I had a couple of friend post humorous videos related to the Hallelujah Chorus.  Given the content of this particular post, it seemed appropriate to share them here as well.  I'm pretty sure God and Handel would think they're funny, too.

There was another awesome video of some guy dressed as Jesus and swinging on wires over the choir of a small church while they sang the Hallelujah Chorus.  Sadly, the costumer for the Easter program provided an epic wardrobe malfunction because instead of just leaving an opening in Jesus' robe for the wires, the costumer pretty much left the whole back end off (kinda like those "L" sheets popular in soap operas--the ones where the girl's boobs are securely covered, but the guy is covered only just past the groin, and there's no bunched-up fabric to suggest a reason for the disparity), presumably figuring that Jesus would only ever face front.  Unfortunately, however, as Jesus swung back and forth he started to spin, turning so you could see his track-shorted booty swathed in the wire harness, his bare legs dangling below.  Poor Jesus tried desperately to reach behind him to tug his highly unfortunate hospital gown robe shut--a lost cause if ever there was one, considering that the back of his robe had a giant box cut out of it from side seam to waist down the other side seam--an exercise which only caused him to spin more.  Poor guy.  No one wants to have his ass hanging out on Easter, much less Jesus.  Sadly, I can't show you this fantastic fail because someone with taste and decorum  had the nerve to remove it from YouTube.  Party poopers.


  1. I've been enlightened! Had no idea I was supposed to stand for the chorus. Now I will have to join the masses deciding if and when to get up. The videos were great, some people are so creative!!

  2. Glad to be of service! I always thought it was a cool bit of trivia. Glad you're enjoying the videos; the silent monks crack me up every time!