It’s almost Christmas! There’s no better time to listen to the Hallelujah Chorus by George Frideric Handel (1684-1759). I hope you’ve heard it before, but if you haven’t, it’s about time! Here’s a few interesting facts for you to know:
The Hallelujah chorus is from an oratorio (like musical theatre or opera but without costumes, sets, or acting – just telling the story through music with an orchestra, choir, and soloists sometimes taking on characters in the story) called the Messiah. It tells the story about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, so it is often performed around Christmas. While the Hallelujah chorus is often thought of as a Christmas song, it actually shows up in the oratorio after Jesus has risen from the dead and gone back to heaven. Technically, it’s more of an Easter song!
The tradition is for the audience to stand during this song. Many say that this is because King George II stood up because he was so moved by the music, and if he stood, everyone else had to stand as well. However, there is no evidence that King George II was ever at a performance, so we don’t really know why except that it was already tradition even before Handel passed away.
Handel was born in Germany, but moved to London, England, where he was a very successful and wealthy composer. He never married or had children, but was a generous guy, donating music and the proceeds from some of his performances (including the Messiah) to the Foundling Hospital, a home for orphaned and abandoned children.
The house where Handel lived in London has been turned into the Handel House Museum. Ask me about it – I’ve been there! He is buried and has a statue at Westminster Abbey (where Prince William & Kate Middleton were married) in what is known as Poet’s Corner. Other famous writers and poets are buried or have a memorial there, including Shakespeare.
You can go hear the Messiah performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on December 9-11, or catch it next year, since they do it every December!
The biggest one I could find - the 300 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, plus another 2,000 in a virtual choir!