That "something else" is its overtly religious theme: that Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, is the long-awaited Messiah of biblical religion. When it came to the Hallelujah Chorus he stood up. Although I believe Marissen is mistaken in his view that Handel was specifically targeting Jews in Messiah, and that he had in mind specifically the fall of Jerusalem, I believe he is correct in identifying a serious religious issue that is posed for contemporary audiences by the explicitly—not to say aggressively—Christian character of this justly famous work. The king was so moved by the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” he spontaneously stood to his feet and remained standing until the end of Handel’s masterpiece. His family's wealth enabled him to live a life of leisure while devoting himself to his literar… Almost three hundred years after its first performance in Dublin, Handel's oratorio Messiah is still regularly performed all over the world, especially at Christmas. Whenever the king stood up, everyone in his presence had to stand up, so the whole audience stood. It was understood that whenever the King stood, everyone else was supposed to as well. Join 7000+ readers who receive fresh, thought-provoking articles once a week right in their inbox. Even in our rapidly secularizing society, audiences still rise to their feet for this musical credo. When I got the program of the Oahu Choral Society concert two days ago, I noted that the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Georg Frideric Handel was scheduled, and I wondered why I wasn’t asked to accompany it. It is Handel's best-known piece and remains hugely popular. I do not believe it is possible to abstract its musical qualities from the religious point of its libretto. Musical Analysis Of Hallelujah Chorus History of “Hallelujah” Chorus from Handel’s Messiah During its London premiere in 1743, King George II rose to his feet at the start of the Hallelujah chorus and remained standing until the end, a tradition that is followed around the world today, even in fervent republics such as the Standing to attention. And audiences across several continents get to their feet in symbolic endorsement. I think I liked this part of the article best: ”, But the monarchical overtones of standing for a king, no matter what his dominion, struck some as an odd fit in America, especially as 20th-century superpower status ratified the country’s democratic experiment. It’s just so hard!” and indeed, if I were still in high school and had three days’ notice to prepare this piece, I would have been thrown into a panic. Comment Magazine is powered by Cardus | 185 Young Street, Hamilton, ON, L8N 1V9 | | 1-888-339-8866, You can unsubscribe at any time. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. As I wrote back, “It’s a good thing I still have this in my fingers!” as it should be for every organist. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. During the upcoming Christmas season I will have no difficulty standing up when the choir sings the "Hallelujah." Stand Up For Handel – The Hallelujah Chorus Christmas is upon us and many people – both locals and visitors – will go either to a church or concert hall to experience a performance of the Messiah written by George Frederick Handel, which is a highlight of the festive season. At least part of it is famous, the "Hallelujah Chorus," an indispensable part of Christmas for hundreds of thousands who don't otherwise care a rap for choral music. Rooting your identity in the image of God. Part of 'Tis The Season at WQXR.. All December WQXR presents special holiday delights to make this season merry and bright. Psalm 2 is right when it predicts that the Lord's Anointed will one day be victorious over all who resist his claims. Whether it is done on the concert stage with a large chorus and symphony orchestra or by church choirs accompanied by a pipe organ, it is the part of Handel’s Messiah that traditionally brings people to their feet. Handel was a devout Christian and Messiah reflects his faith. Tickets are available at the door or online. November 12 th 2010. A standard practice is for the audience to stand while this portion of Messiah is performed. Royal example, religious devotion, reassuring ritual, rousing musicality – take your pick. Then the "Hallelujah," with its celebration of the universal triumph of God in Jesus Christ, is sung. His servants would often find him in tears as he composed. Your email address will not be published. Well, guess what, yesterday I got an email from Dana Harrison, the Executive Director, that I am to play it after all. But my heart will ache for those who take understandable offense at its uncompromising message. Marissen is not alone in this interpretation of Handel's masterpiece. The most popular and most repeated modern myth is that “he was so moved” or “overcome by emotion” by the music that he felt compelled to stand. In his view, the juxtaposition of the verses from Psalm 2 and the "Hallelujah" was clear evidence that Jennens and Handel were rejoicing specifically at the great calamity which befell the Jews in AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. And while you’re there, read my thoughts on mispronouncing Handel’s last name.]. No one knows for sure why he stood. It is truly remarkable that to this day, even in our rapidly secularizing society, audiences traditionally rise to their feet to show a kind of special honour for this magnificent musical confession of faith. Perhaps the custom persists precisely because no one is sure why it exists, leaving every audience member to choose his or her own rationale. [N.B. Even in our rapidly secularizing society, audiences still rise to their feet for this musical credo. Within the context of the libretto which Handel used (prepared by his friend Charles Jennens), this chorus is preceded by sung versions of select verses from Psalm 2, which read as follows: The meaning is unmistakable. To gloss over its overtly Christian message is to do injustice to both Handel and his masterpiece. Its confessional thrust is part and parcel of the meaning of this work of musical art. The nations at large conspire against the Lord and against his Anointed, and plan to cast off all restraints that he has imposed on them. An introduction to Public Theology for the Common Good. The front of the building is all that remains of the hall today, and there is a plaque commemorating the Messiah premiere. Thomas Cranmer wrote a prayer book, and shaped an entire society. A thorough explanation of the history of standing for the “Hallelujah Chorus” was explored in a two-part Boston Globe article by Matthew Guerrieri called “Rise and Say ‘Hallelujah’” He questions whether George II was even in the audience! The Hallelujah Chorus is part of the oratorio Messiah by Handel, concluding the second of three parts. Almost three hundred years after its first performance in Dublin, Handel's oratorio Messiah is still regularly performed all over the world, especially at … Standing Up for the Hallelujah Chorus. Messiah was not premiered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 12. Although I am not competent to judge, I suspect that other oratorios written by Handel are not necessarily inferior to Messiah in musical excellence, but these others are rarely performed today, if not virtually forgotten.