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A Christmas question: Why do we stand for the Hallelujah Chorus?

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One of the staples of the holiday is Handel’s Messiah.While it was composed in 1741 as music for Easter, it has become a Christmas staple in this country. Rare is the chorus, choir or glee club that does not perform at least portions of Handel’s oratorio. And, of course, the most recognized part is the “Hallelujah Chorus” and everyone will stand. The question is “Why?”

The answer is really quite simple. At a performance on March 23rd, 1743 (remember, Messiah was composed as Easter music) King George II of England was attending the performance. When the “Hallelujah Chorus” began, the King rose. It is not clear why, perhaps he was stretching his legs, or, being partially deaf, he mistook the opening notes for the National Anthem, or he may have risen out of respect. However, protocol dictated that when the King stood, everyone else stood as well.

No one knows for sure why, but one thing is certain, people will rise to their feet at the first notes of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

By the way, the combined Choirs of Trinity Cathedral, accompanied by period instruments,will sing the Messiah at 4PM on Sunday, December 15 at the Cathedral. Tickets for this concert can be ordered here.

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