Shoppers at Macy’s were dazzled by a surprise rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus in Philadelphia. When the 650 choristers, accompanied by the Wanamaker organ -- the largest organ in the world -- finished singing the Christmas classic, the mall erupted with applause.
Video footage of the event, which occurred some years ago, has been viewed millions of times. And the timeless beauty of good music left its mark. “We are all drawn a little bit closer to heaven when we hear this played and sung,” said one spectator.
Another added: “The Church at one time used to be in the center of the marketplace. The Church was central to the culture with various forms of art. So as you look at what took place at Macy’s, it is not a far cry from how the Church used to be accepted.”
One more: “There is a certain lack of beauty in much of today’s music, as well as a lack of dignity. By the way, have you noticed how little of today’s music is beautiful? It’s cool, funky, raw, radical, jazzy, upbeat -- but not beautiful.”
A Living Tradition
The crown jewel of Handel’s Messiah is the “Hallelujah” chorus, which uses passages of the New Testament. In concert halls around the word, audiences always stand up for the “Hallelujah. ” This long-standing tradition originated when the Messiah premiered in London in the presence of King George II. When the first chords of the chorus began, the king rose and remained standing.
Royal protocol has it that whenever a monarch stands, those in his or her presence should also stand as a sign of respect. Therefore, on this occasion, both the audience and the orchestra stood with the king.
Why did the king stand? The king’s gesture acknowledged Handel’s great musical genius. But more importantly, King George II rose for a higher reason. Standing for the majestic strains of “King of kings, Lord of lords,” he was accepting his place as a subject of the King of kings.
Despite the dictatorship of secularist culture, the beautiful tradition of standing for the chorus has endured ever since.